Night photography is one of the most admired genres of photography, and one of Aperture Academy's most popular workshops. We really enjoy teaching the tricks and secrets behind and in front of the camera. Whether you are just kicking off your photography career or you just want to brush up on a new skill, our instructors will lead you around San Francisco so you can document night life, and paint with light. This workshop includes going to hotspots that provide plenty of inspiration, opportunity and time for questions and learning, specifically so you can get the shots you want!
On this typical San Francisco night, instructors Scott Donschikowski and Alicia Telfer met small and eager group of photographers at Baker beach, where the night started off with introductions and getting to know each other. The instructors learned where everyone's skill and comfort levels were photographically, so they could be sure to cover essential information for each student.
On this Friday night, Baker beach was completely fogged in, so we headed right to the other side of the coast near Fort Point to get a shot of the Golden Gate bridge from that side. When we arrived, we saw the fog was rolling through the bridge, which gave the students a neat shot of the support meeting the water and disappearing in to the fog.
When lighting is foggy or hazy, it is acceptable to shoot or convert your image to black and white. It simplifies and isolates any subject you find. Once the group got some nice shots, we headed off to the ever popular Palace of Fine Arts, to practice more landscape night shots!
The Palace is a great palace for a group of photographers because you have full range of the location. We like to start off shooting the dome as a landscape and play with composition to capture the mirrored reflection in the pond! On this night, we couldn't get the contrasting warm lights of the Palace and the blue hour, so instead, we used the cloud coverage to our advantage and helped the students take photos with new perspectives and focus on other subjects, such as the amazingly detailed architecture.
After shooting the Palace from across the water, we headed closer to the enormous columns and guardians of the dome, where we met up with some night skaters. With their skating dances, bright lights and loud music, we were all easily entertained and were able to get a taste of light painting, as a few students captured the movement of the skaters AT NIGHT! A fun experience, for sure!
We left the skaters behind to take off in the toasty warm ApCab van and head to instructor Alicia's favorite spot of the night, Lombard Street, the longest, most twisted road in San Francisco. Arriving at the scene, the instructors split the group in half to get different perspectives of cars driving down the turn-ladened street. This is the best location of the night for teaching the art of patience and the technique of leaving the shutter open long enough to capture the taillights of driving cars.
There wasn't a lot of traffic, but even with that, Alicia was dodging cars while spelling out "Night Owls" and "Aperture Academy" for the students to photograph. To add to Alicia's difficulty level, she had to write backwards towards the students' cameras! However, it was all well worth the exercise for our instructor, as the students made some great images and everyone had a great time. The chilly night was being felt, so while making our way to the last stop of the night, we made a quick pit-stop to refuel and warm up with hot chocolates!
The most rewarding spot of the night was when we stopped right in front of the bay bridge on the Embarcadero and took our final photograph...or final twenty. It was at this location that the instructors found conditions perfect for sharing a technique of raising the ISO to gain detail in the night sky, which had turned out to be nicely textured for our group of Night Owls!
This place is becoming iconic, with the old pilings in the water, leading to the beautiful and majestic bridge. This location is the perfect place to play with the creative side of white balance adjustments, because the shot looks good both warm (higher kelvin) and cool (lower kelvin). The left over and corroding wood completely adds weight to the composition of the bridge shot. By making some simple adjustments, students' images were looking vibrant and colorful.
This particular shot is becoming more special every time we are out on this workshop, because there is a rumor circulating that the pilings will be removed in the next couple of years for the World Cup! Without those aging pilons adding such character, if the rumor becomes true, the scene will definitely be missing something special, and all those who were able to capture it now will have something to treasure.
All good things must end, and it became time for this workshop to end. However, the students walked back to the van with stunning night images on their cards, and of course, new skills and added confidence. An outstanding evening of night photography came to a close, but the take-aways won't soon be forgotten.
Until next time,
Alicia, Scott and the rest of the ApCad crew
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.