Summer was an amazing time when I was a kid. There was no school, no routines, no homework (bleh) and no responsibilities. It was just a time to hang out with friends and have fun. Oh how I wish there was something like our photo summer camp when I was younger. I went to summer camps, sure, but in the traditional sense. We had day trips that were fun, but most of the time it was a place to just hang out and there wasnt a theme other than keeping us busy all day. When we put together the idea for a photo summer camp, we wanted to take all the cool things that we experienced at camp, but put more meaning into it and create an environment of learning, without feeling like it. I think weve been pretty successful in that, I mean, Im over 30 and I have fun everytime! With professional photographers Phil Nicholas and Kristen Guldner helpin me out this week, it was awesome to have all of us share our professional experiences in photography all while taking some pretty cool photos, and learning a ton along the way.
Monday: Studio Lighting
The very first day is a little tough for everyone. Just like the first day of school, theres new people, new surroundings, and lots of nerves and butterflies. To loosen everyone up and get everyone acquainted, our first day is devoted to studio lighting. We break out the big equipment! Studio lights, backdrops, speedlights, softboxes, giant reflectors, and props, literally the whole nine yards! We have our group learn the ins and outs product photography using professional lights and props, and at the same time, we have a group learning about studio portrait photography. They all take turns both in front of the camera and behind to sooth the nerves and loosen up. Phil and I start first - and really just make fun of ourselves by wacky photos to prove we're not above being silly - both as models while explaining how to use the lights. Before long everyone was firing on all cylinders and we started to just have fun moving the lights around and trying different things. With a short lesson in post-processing after we tore down the studio, day one was in the books!
Tuesday: San Francisco Zoo
Wildlife photography is very different then any other kind of photography. It requires patience, a good eye, and luck - as well as totally different camera settings! Phil and I helped our class go through all the settings of their cameras to get everyone dialed in before we headed out to the San Francisco Zoo. The city weather was glorious. The sky opened up (rare in the summer) over the zoo and we had nice blue skies and warm temps all day. We started our journey with the cats, most were sleeping but the Sumatran Tiger was awake and gave us some great yawns, before we moved along en-route to the Grizzly enclosure for their feeding time. The two Grizzly bears on site get fed promptly at 11:30 and they put on show, constantly "foraging" around their enclosure for fish, honey, and veggies, hidden by the zoo staff. Its awesome to see these huge wild animals move around while we photograph them. With everyone having gotten plenty of shots of the Grizzlies in action, we toured around and stopped at the Polar Bear, Sea Lions, and Koalas where we got some awesome shots of these guys sleeping in the trees! Lunchtime saw us re-energize with some food, and work on some abstracts with the Flamingos before moving on to the Lemurs, where along the way we caught a very pretty butterfly, who stuck around and let us grab some photos! After that we "visited" Africa, and some great shots of the Giraffes and Gorillas before it was time to call it a day.
Wednesday: San Francisco Cityscapes
We decided to switch it up a little today and started by venturing up to Twin Peaks, to grab some shots of the city skyline from the best vantage point in the city. The weather was iffy as we made our way through south SF, but on top of Twin Peaks hill, the sky opened up and fog abated and we had an awesome view down market street to downtown. With the fog pretty high, we decided to travel up to Hawk Hill to see if we could get a clear shot above it all. Nope. Sadly the fog was too high and decided it best to a break and get some lunch in Sausalito. After a great lunch, we headed down to Fort Baker to catch some views under the north end of the Golden Gate bridge. On the fishing pier there, we caught some great shots of local fishermen, the tons of sailboats cruising along in the bay, and some pretty cool partially fog swept shots of the Golden Gate too. We made one last stop on the south side of the Golden Gate bridge (over by Battery Godfrey) to get some shots looking through the bridge towers, which was moody with all the fog. And before we knew it, it was time to head home and start downloading and processing our catch of the day.
Thursday: Photojournalism in Santa Cruz
Sadly, Phil had to leave us today as he was heading home to Michigan for a family event. So we brought in our resident professional wedding photographer - and all around awesome gal - Kristen Guldner! Our plan for the day was to head up to Shark Fin cove in Davenport to relax by the beach and grab some shots of the waves crashing on the rocks. We had everyone try using different settings again, this time to slow the action of the waves and try to create a more dramatic yet abstract scene with the slightly blurry water. I think everyone filled up their cards pretty fast taking pictures of the waves. After a short lunchbreak, we headed over to the Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz to try our hand at some Photojournalism. Each student was to create a photo story using ten images that they took at the boardwalk. The photo story was to be about some facet of the boardwalk that they found interesting, and using photography, we tasked them with telling that story through their photos. We had a blast! The weather was awesome, the temps were perfect, and the stories came along swimmingly. Now if we could only get everyone in sync for a jumping group shot!
Friday: Gallery Show
Our last day! Time to take all the images shot from the past 4 days and find the very best ones to print out and matte and hang for the gallery show. Every student each has the opportunity to print out 4 small images and one large image to hang on the wall for a personal show with their classmates at the end of the day. If I remember anything about a kid though, staying in one place working on the computer all day is totally lame, so after a couple hours we had everyone use the internet to find a studio portrait shot that really liked, and we would mimic the setup and the shot with all the lights and modifiers we had in the studio. Its a great way to break up the monotony of processing images, while learning about how to deconstruct a photo to replicate it. After lunch we had everyone break into smaller teams and go off and do a photo scavenger hunt to test their skills from the past week. While they were off hunting, I stayed in the studio printing all their photos. Once that was done, Kristen (the master) taught everyone how to properly matte and bag their photos, while I evaluated their scavenger hunt effort. The team with the best score took to the wall first and started displaying their mounted images. Before long we had a proper gallery show! As their family and friends poured into the studio, Kristen and I stood back and talked to the parents about the week they had and how much fun we had teaching them! It was a blast! I want to thank the parents for their support in allowing us to teach - and learn - with the kids. Every year we take in 10 kids a week, and make awesome photos - and memories! You guys did great!
Until next time, Scott, Phil, Kristen and the rest of the Aperture Academy crew
Scott, Phil 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.