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San Francisco is one of the most photogenic cities in the world. I shudder to think at how many times on a given day someone clicks the shutter on their camera and makes an exposure of the city and its iconic locations. It would have to be in the millions. Of those millions of photographs taken each day I wonder how many of those the taker of the photograph wasn't happy with, or was messed up because of a lack of knowledge of the camera.
The Aperture Academy prides itself in taking students with a wide variety of photographic background out on fun adventures through location like San Francisco so they can learn more about how to set their cameras, and more about how to make creative photographs of iconic places like San Francisco.
Our group of eager photographers, many of which were on for a second day and attended our night session the previous evening assembled for a day of fun and photography with high-energy instructors Brian Rueb and Scott Donschikowski.
After our traditional meet, greet, and inform orientation the group headed out on to Baker Beach under a beautiful blue sky dotted with white puffy clouds. The goal of the first stop is not to see naked people, although it is San Francisco and on occasion that happens on our first location. It adds to the interest of the trip and makes for good coffee conversation later. The real goal of the first place is to begin to help newer students with their settings, help start to work on composition elements with others, and give our instructors a chance to learn their students interests and cameras.
We spend some time here working on using the leading lines of the cliffs and surf to help guide the viewers' eyes through the image and create visually aesthetically photos. Due to the great blue sky and clouds we were also able to really use the polarizers to help give some more definition to the sky and bring out some of the reflected light on the sand.
We don't like to linger here too long as we have more interesting locations to visit during our day. The second of which is for many students one of their favorites. Fort Point! This civil war era fort is a maze of stairways, arches, and nostalgia from an era when the fear of being attack in the bay ruled the day and forts were built on every high point throughout the coastline.
The days of canon fire and musket balls are far passed and now this fort serves as a reminder of San Francisco's rich military history and as a place for tourists and photographers to explore.
Our group breaks apart in to smaller sections to really explore the fort. Brian and Scott take the groups to a few of their favorite locations that offer students a chance to work in different light, indoor and outdoor as well as work on composing images where high symmetry and repetitive shapes are available; an old powder room full of wonderful barrels, a long hallway of doorways, and a series of brick archways. All of these spots are great ways for our instructors to continue to help our students learn composition as well as the little tricks and tips to help make their compositions even better.
Exploring just these three little nooks of the fort takes over an hour. It's easy to see that the students are eager to branch out and put some of what they've learned to test and find their own favorites spots in Fort Point. With some ideas from Brian and Scott the class branches out for the last hour and looks for their own unique images of the fort and the magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A cold wind was beginning to whip up and the class was primed for a break after we left the Fort. Everyone had earned a break in Sausalito for lunch/early dinner before heading out to the Marin Headlands and Rodeo Beach for a hopefully nice sunset.
The wind brought in the clouds, and while it wasn't raining the sky appeared ready to open up at any moment. Our class, ever determined, still marched out through the high surf to our spot on Rodeo Beach where dark black sea stacks loom just off shore creating a subject for dramatic long exposure seascape shots.
While we set up our shot we were treated to a slightly insane individual (Not in OUR group) who tried to climb the tallest of the sea structures. He didn't quite make it to the top, but the beating he took from the cold surf had to have given him reason to think twice about trying it again.
Though the sunset wasn't going to go off as hoped, there was plenty of definition in the sky to give different shades of blues and grey that really made for some moody almost monochromatic images of the area as the class worked the long exposures to created wispy white lines of the surf as it receded.
Vertical or Horizontal there were some really amazing moody images coming on the camera screens. Scott and Brian worked with the class on filter use to help balance the exposures, and polarizers to really bring out the contrast in the water and surf. By the end of the evening we were getting some 15-30 second exposures on some shots and the moving water was spectacular!
Even though the class was scheduled to end at 5:30, we never leave when there's still good opportunities to shoot! We spent the last portion of our time together on a high cliff overlooking the city and Golden Gate Bridge. While this class isn't specifically focused on night photography, we like to give a little bit of a intro to what our Night Owls class is all about. The students spent about 20-30 minutes grabbing some spectacular images of the bridge in full, and also some nice compositions of just one of the towers with the city lights glowing behind it.
IT was great! We had held up and avoided the rain up until the last moments of the night when a few drips began to fall letting us know that our time together was about to end. No matter, we had seen all the spots we set out to photograph, and the students has enjoyed their time and come away with some great images!
Until next time,
Brian, Scott and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.