San Francisco is a bustling metropolis at night. Cable cars, tourists, taxicabs and LIGHTS! Tons of lights! Some of the best photographic opportunities in the city happen at night, when the city literally comes alive with light. Most people go indoors when the night comes, but for a select few intrepid photographers on the Night Owls workshop, we go out and pursue the night to capture views of the city that are otherwise unimaginable by day. Now its been a while since I taught a Night Owls workshop, so it was good to get out there again with one of newer Pro-Instructors, Paul Porter, and have him take the reigns for the evening.
Well I gotta say it started off absolutely wonderful. The temperatures in Fall/Winter in San Francisco are generally more mild with clearer skies, and we definitely had that going for us as we met up with our group in Sausalito. After a brief round of introductions with everyone we began to lay out the plan of attack, as it were, for the night. With everyone giddy and rearing to go we headed out to our first stop.
The Palace of Fine Arts is one of San Francisco's most beloved and recognized structures. Originally intended to house an art exhibit for the 1915 Pan-Pacific Expo, The Palace of Fine Arts was one of ten Palaces built and slated to demolished after the Expo ended. Only the Palace of Fine Arts survived due the persistence of a preservation league. It was later rebuilt in 1965 into the state we see it today. A truly magnificent building made even better by the arrival of night and the many lights illuminating its pillars, columns and rotunda. Paul and showed the group some compositions and went over basic camera settings until finally letting everyone go and explore at their own pace, all under our watchful eye. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the scene and the Palace was really putting on a show. But alas, onward!
Our next stop was the famous Lombard street. Aptly named the "crookedest street in America." I can vouch for that, but it is pretty damn windy. Its the windiness that brings us here, well that and the tourists who drive down its switchbacks. We broke the group up into two and had one head down the street to look back up, and one group stayed atop, looking down. The object lesson here is in long exposures. When cars traverse the switchbacks, their light is spread across their route when we expose for long periods of time. Meaning, there's light streaks in the final shots from the headlights and taillights (and the taxicab adverts) of the cars. Its a pretty cool phenomenon! You gotta see it to believe it! We were doing pretty good on time at this point, so managed to hang out here for an hour and a half, and the cars just kept coming!
The place we visited is a San Francisco classic. The Bay Bridge has been made even more impressive with the LED light show on its western span. The Embarcadero has many spots from which to shoot the bridge, but there's one in particular which we fancy. There's some old pier pilings sticking up out the water which are perfect for our foreground, and framing everything up (with a little assistance from Paul and I) couldn't be easier and we shot the night away! There were some faint clouds in the sky above the bridge, which helped to lessen the darkness of the night sky and help our exposures. And after a seriously FUN group shot adventure, we made our way to the last spot of the night.
Battery Godfrey, now free of the tourists from the daytime, is completely isolated at night, and has one of the best vantage points of the Golden Gate Bridge in any light. We had the place all to ourselves and spent the rest of the time working compositions in and around the Battery. We might have gotten a little carried away with the beauty of the night, because we ended up getting back our meeting place about an hour over our expected time. Kudos to everyone for being pumped and enjoying becoming a true Night Owl!
Until Next Time,
Scott, Paul 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.)
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