The realm of night photography can be a mysterious adventure for many photographers…and as the internet and social media continues to put forth countless amazing night images for beginning photographers to view, the desire for them to learn how to do it themselves increases. That's where we come into the picture. Aperture Academy is designed to help photographers learn the ins and outs of night photography while in a fun, and safe environment.
Phil and I met a group of 12 eager photographers on a pleasant Saturday night for an evening of fun and photography in one of the world's most iconic and beautiful cities. We loaded up in the van and set off to our first spot of the night…the Palace of Fine Arts. This is one of my favorite buildings in the city. With bits of Roman and Greek architecture thrown in it looks greatly out of place in a stereotypical San Francisco neighborhood, but it's a true gem to photograph. We lined up outside the palace where the last bits of color had just faded from the sky, and the blue of twilight swept in. We use the outside pond for reflection shots of this great building as the lights have come on for the night. The mix of orange light and blue night are really stunning on the cameras. Phil and I help the class to start to go over the basics of the settings needed to capture this with the cameras. The first few minutes are the most important as the blue color will give way to a deeper color as the sun travels farther below the horizon…and the contrast will be greatly increased, giving the images a much different feel. Everyone manages to come away with some really beautiful images within the first few minutes though, and it's really fun to watch the backs of screens to see their compositional ideas take shape.
Our second stop of the night is Lombard Street. This twisty road has been a staple for our night classes for almost a decade, and with good reason! The shots people come away with here are epic. We work on long exposures here to capture the moving lights as they wind their way down this one-lane road. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance…we cover it all on this class and how they all relate to one another. Our group takes turns shooting from the top down and the bottom up so they can capture headlights and taillights, and see the way that each photographs.
It's a fun, fun spot…and from an instructors standpoint it's a great spot to really see the students starting to “get it” and be able to understand why we shoot the way we do at night. Form here it's a brief stop in San Francisco's North Beach district for a snack before we set out to the Embarcadero to photograph the iconic Bay Bridge from the waters' edge.
At this point in the night the class is pretty solid with the technical aspects so we help focus more on the compositional aspects as well as continuing to help cement the settings. The water was very calm and the lights from the city and bridge dancing on the top was perfect…a few clouds in the area helped give some balance to the sky of our images, and everyone really came away with some tremendous images.
It was nearing midnight by this point but we weren't done…what's a night shoot in San Francisco without a stop at the most famous bridge in the west coast…The Golden Gate! We stop high above the bridge in the Marin Headlands where we put our techniques to work one last time to get some tremendous shots of the mighty Golden Gate. It was a last chance for Phil and I to pass on the information for shooting night images as well, but by this point everyone seemed very solid on their grasp of the information and were making some aesthetically pleasing images.
Even though we stayed out well past our bedtimes, it was worth it to end up with memory cards filled with great night images…now all that was left was the students to drive home and start processing their images…but that might have to wait until they get a little rest.
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. (More photos below the comments.)