The Big Sur area of California feels different than the rest of the coast; the water is much more vibrant than the rest of the state and the colors just seem to pop. Of course, it goes without saying that it is also one of the more photographed areas of landscape within the state. People come from all over to get photos of the dramatic cliffs and sparkling turquoise blue water.
Phil and I met our great group of 13 eager photographers for an afternoon and evening of shooting. Our first stop was the Carmel Mission. Once inside this great old structure, we started going over the basics. Every person in our groups have different photography skill levels, so Phil and I like to make sure we go over all the basics of shooting in that (scary) manual mode. For those with some experience shooting on manual, it's just review, or perhaps a different take on what they already know. For the newer photographers, it's a chance to start working on developing a routine with their shooting so that they'll get comfortable using aperture, shutter speed, and ISO as tools to help creativity, and not hinder it.
We spent some time going over the histogram readings, and how to make that "histogram party" something that teaches them what they've captured in the camera…and how to make the appropriate adjustments.
This first location is all about small details... textures, colors, contrast, and shape. We try to walk the group around and go over how we approach a scene and what we look for when we're shooting. By the time we're wrapping that up, church has let out, and many people had fun photographing the great chapel area. What I love about the mission is that there's always something new to see. Different flowers in bloom, light playing on different objects in new ways…I always find something new to photograph every visit, and if I can do that after over 100 trips here…I can't imagine how much there is for the new visitor!
Time was flying! We were off next to Bixbie Bridge, an iconic old stone bridge that is a lot of fun to photograph, and it's a staple of the Big Sur coastline. Some small yellow flowers were in bloom so we were able to go over foreground a little, work on composition, use of a polarizing filter, and help the students work on the proper settings when handholding a camera versus having it on a tripod.
We next stopped for a lunch break along the Big Sur river so people could relax a bit before we drove the crooked road down highway 1 to McWay Falls, a tropical looking waterfall that falls onto the beach and into the sea. The goal there is not only aesthetic looking compositions, but also use of filters to help hold back the light and give us some movement and silky looking water. Phil and I helped the class with all of their filters, or the use of a loaner filter, to get the desired effects. The beautiful day really made the colors pop…the blues are SO vibrant it almost doesn't look real.
Our daylight was fading quickly, so we packed up and headed to Pfieffer Beach. We arrived to find that the offshore fog had come and sat on the horizon, blocking any chance of an epic sunset…but that's typical for this time of year on the coast…and no matter what the sun does it doesn't change the way we work and the lessons we're teaching. And there and then, it was all about getting silky, moving water.
For this, we had the class set up and bump up their apertures to allow for the smallest opening for the longest exposure possible. We keep those ISOs low, and use filters to help hold back light as well…the results were awesome. We saw a lot of cool looking moody water shots on the backs of the cameras!
Once the sun had gone behind the horizon, the temperatures dropped, and our pleasant 75-degree day had turned into a 50-degree icebox...and it became time to pack up and head back!
The class had a lot of fun, as did Phil and I. We saw a lot of nice images on the cameras, and saw a lot of light bulbs go on with the new found information we presented. People were getting it, and it showed on the cameras. The only thing left is for them to keep practicing, and head home to sift through all of the images they took during the day!
Until next time,
Brian, 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.