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San Franciscans know the importance of a beautiful day. They spend a summer submersed in a coastal fog that overtakes them nearly daily leaving them in cold, grey, misery. When the weather turns to sunshine, and the temperatures rise about 60, the town comes out in force to enjoy the sights, fill the beaches, and make the most of the day...and that's just the locals. Add to it the thousands of tourists visiting the city on a given day, who also want to enjoy the beautiful day and you have quite the crowd. With all the way to enjoy San Francisco there might not be a better way than spending it with the crew from the Aperture Academy learning more about photography.
A group of 13 eager students met instructors and professional photographers Brian Rueb and Ellie Stone for an afternoon and evening of photography and fun in the city by the bay.
The day began with an orientation and shoot on Baker Beach, one of San Francisco's only nude beaches. We don't pick the location because of the nudity, but because it makes a great meeting point, and also provides one of the best views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Despite the good weather bringing out the nudists in force, our group remain focused and the class was able to get some nice images of the world's most famous bridge. Brian and Ellie worked with the students on composition and how to approach a scene in terms of settings. Students come to us with a wide variety of skill and experience. It's important for us to take the students where they are skill wise and help to move them forward to the next level.
The next location of the afternoon was the famous civil war era fort under the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point. Fort Point has a great deal to offer photographers. Interesting textures, repetitive shapes, symmetry, stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a chance to work on photographing interiors. The class broke up into 2 smaller groups. Brian took the beginner group and Ellie took the other group. They spent the first half of our time in the fort showing the students some of their favorite locations and working on exposure settings indoors as well as out. We covered some topics related to shallow depth of field, and how to best use it creatively as well as technically. Learning all the settings and so much new information can be overwhelming. Many students want time to go practice and play with what they've been learning. It helps put teaching into practice as well as guide the questions they will ask the remainder of the day. We give the students time to explore the fort and work individually on their skills. The instructors walk the fort and provide individual feedback and instruction as needed.
The fort is one of the favorite stops for most of our students. Many express that the 2 hours we spend there isn't enough time to see and photograph all that they'd found. It really takes a lot of out of the class, and we head from Fort Point directly to dinner break where the students can recharge as well as continue to get to know their classmates and instructors more.
When our batteries are charged it's time for sunset photography at Rodeo Beach. Rodeo Beach provides a great opportunity to work on seascapes and learn to use filters to help balance exposure as well as add creativity to images. The moving surf, rocks, and sea stacks help to provide opportunities for great compositions. So many students come to us with limited knowledge on filters and how to make those silky moving water shots. There's no better feeling that seeing them start to come away with some nice images as well as understand the concepts needed to make the images. We saw SO many nice images on the backs of the cameras! Even though the class scheduled to be finished by 8pm, the light was so good at Rodeo we weren't about to leave! We finished up as the last bit of color faded from the sky, and the lights of the city began to glow. There was still one stop left...a return to the Golden Gate Bridge.
The class was still eager to photograph, and who are we to deny them! The view of the Golden Gate from the Marin Headlands is amazing, and so iconic. What better way to begin to teach the concepts of night photography than from this birds-eye vantage! The class took some REALLY nice images here as Brian and Ellie walked along the lineup and helped them with the settings, and going over white balance, and ISO and how those tools can help to create dynamic and impressive images.
It was a long day for sure. The van ride back to the meeting point was filled with the glow of 13 tiny camera screens cycling through a memory card full of new images. The smiles let us know that the students were happy with their results. What a great way to spend a beautiful day in San Francisco!
Until next time,
Brian, Ellie, 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.