I love how popular the photography world has become and how many new photographers we see each year who are ecstatic about learning the ins and outs of their DSLR cameras. Night Photography has always been one of those areas of shooting that causes a person a lot of trouble. New photographers often don’t head out strictly looking to do night photography, the experience they have with night shooting is often trying to capture a shot in passing and without devoting some considerable time to the process, the photos often end up falling short of expectations. That’s why Joe and I are here. We’re here to help students get that experience with night shooting.
Our group of 12 photographers and our rookie instructor in training Mike met Joe and I in Sausalito for a brief orientation before a full night of shooting in and around some of the iconic locales in San Francisco.
We start at the Palace of Fine Arts. This is a great spot to begin our learning. It not only has one of the best scenes of the night, but also some of the most challenging light. The bright lights of the architecture and the darkness of the sky and pool make it difficult to know how to expose this. It gives Joe and I a chance to go over trade-offs with photography and how sometimes you have to give up something to get something else. IN this case it comes to whether you want shadow detail or highlights that are exposed properly. There are a few people who want the best of both worlds, and this gives us an opportunity to go over the different ways processing and bracketing can play into capturing an image. There is, of course, always the typical talk about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance.
Our second stop for the night is Lombard St. This is one of the best places for both fun learning and iconic San Francisco. Here we break up into two smaller groups. One shooting taillights with Joe, and the other shoots headlights with me. I like to try and break up the normal thought process here by teaching students how to burn and dodge in real time while we shoot. The longer exposures and darker environment gives us the freedom to cover up exposures while we shoot and get better results.
No matter which direction you photograph though, the images are spectacular. I love the way the streaks of light twist and turn down the curved brick path. I think this is the spot where folks finally start to have the settings and shooting click with them…and the shots here are nothing short of spectacular.
Our next stop is the Bay Bridge and Embarcadero. The LED lights are back on and that gives the whole scene another level of depth. Here we’re back to going over the basic settings, or reinforcing them I should say…by this point everyone has already shown quite a bit of learning and it’s just a matter of double checking with them to make sure it all still makes sense. Here we do go over white balance a bit more as every spot is slightly different so it’s an important thing to continue to hit upon.
Our last stop for the evening is the Golden Gate Bridge…one of the ICONS of the city. We head up into the Marin Headlands where we stop at a spot that offers a great vista of the bridge and the city. Here it’s one last checking of the settings, discussion on white balance, and then offering up a little bit of compositional critique. The class has gotten some terrific images from the various locations, and it’s just a matter of minor adjustments. The smiling faces let us know that this information is all starting to sink in. Now comes the hard part…going back home and figuring out which shots they want to process!
Until Next Time,
Brian, Joe, Mike, 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.
NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments.