We love night photography at the Aperture Academy. Which is why we love our Night Owls course. It's a perfect way for our team of savvy instructors to get together with a group of photography loving individuals for a night of instruction and fun in one of the best cities in America for night photography -- San Francisco.
Our group of 13 students met instructors Stephen Oachs, Brian Rueb and assistant Scott Donschikowski at Baker Beach on a Friday night...eager to learn...and ready for fun. We could tell right away this group was going to be "trouble." They were almost too excited, if that's possible! That's ok...Stephen and Brian are both a little off their rockers as well, so they were eager to take out this bunch of photography enthusiasts; one person had even traveled all the way from Orlando, Florida!
We began our night on Baker Beach. It's a perfect place to nail two birds with one stone; we get to photograph the sun setting behind the Marin Headlands, as well as our first taste in night imagery when the lights on the Golden Gate Bridge come on and begin to cast their gorgeous reflections onto the beach as the waves recede.
We work with our students here to really get to know their personal goals for the night, as well as familiarize ourselves with their equipment, and how to set it properly. Of course we also spend ample time working on composition, and trying to help the students get a few nice images right out of the gate.
Once the twilight faded, and the night was fully upon the city, we left the beach and headed out to explore some of our favorite spots for night photography.
This was an interesting evening for scantily clad folks. Our first experience was a pantless man building a totem in the sand at Baker Beach, and while it isn't uncommon for us to see some naked folks on Baker, it was kind of odd to see one after the sun had gone. However, he would not be the only interesting character this evening...
Our second stop was the winding roads of Lombard Street. We parked and then set out in small groups, exploring the street looking for interesting compositions that utilize the great architecture, as well as the streaking car lights moving their way through the scene. For many photographers, they lack the confidence and knowledge of how to best use their camera to capture these types of images, so they're not able to spend time focusing on composition...if they go out at all to photograph at night. Our instructors work hard to help every student feel comfortable with how their camera works, and feel good about using it in the manual mode so they can spend less time worrying about settings, and more time enjoying the beauty that surrounds them.
When we'd traversed up and down Lombard Street enough times to burn off everyone's dinner, it was time for a snack! We made a stop in the heart of San Francisco's hustle and bustle so participants could grab a snack, and get a bit of energy before we finished the evening.
The third stop, and one of the most popular of the evening, was the Embarcadero, for photographing the Bay Bridge. This shot is an iconic view found in many professional photographer's portfolios, and we demystify it and help every student to come away with their own version.
In this case, we were also treated to a couple crazy kids who thought it would be fun to strip down and take a swim in the Bay. To each their own.... They were a bit disappointed that we didn't want to photograph them, but hey, we had places to go and scenes to photograph.
The final spot for the evening was Treasure Island, and a view of the Bay Bridge from a different, yet equally impressive, location. This was a perfect spot for us to conclude our evening. We were all lined up on a narrow cement walkway looking at a spectacular vista of the San Francisco skyline. It's also a great place for students to get in a last bit of practice and put to work everything they've been learning throughout the evening. We had a great group, and while most of them could've probably shot until the sun came up, it was getting very late and time for us to call it a night.
I think everyone enjoyed themselves, learned a lot, and we could tell from what we saw on the cameras that there were a lot of great images taken during the night.
Until next time,
Stephen, Brian, Scott, and the entire 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.