Some people leave their heart in San Francisco, heck, they even wrote a song about it. A lot of people just leave without really ever taking any great photographs. That's where we come in. At the Aperture Academy, our goal is to take some of the mystery out of the world of photography and help our students come away with the knowledge and education needed to start making their own memorable shots.
The area of night photography can be particularly challenging. Many people struggle not only with the technical aspects of night shooting, but a lot are concerned with safety issues of going out alone to come away with these amazing night shots. There is no better way to learn about photography than with a group of like-minded enthusiasts and professional instructors there to answer your every question.
Professional photographers Brian Rueb and Scott Donschikowski met a group of eager photographers of all skill levels on a dark Baker Beach for a night of photography, learning and fun! The class always begins with a brief orientation so everyone can get to know one another and the instructors can learn a bit about the gear each student has, their background in photography, and what they would like to focus on during the workshop.
When the class is ready, we loaded everyone up into our photography van we like to call, the ApCab, and then it was time to set off for our first destination — The Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace is a magnificent piece of architecture from the world fair days of San Francisco, and the giant art exhibit that they once hosted. The class began by working all along the giant pond area in front of the palace. Though the reflections were blurred by some occasional rain, the colors are wonderful and the lessons are all the same. Scott and Brian worked with the students to get the settings right and they explained different ways to deal with the high contrast and difficult lighting. Topics also covered everything from composition to the correct white balance, and how to use the white balance to creatively change and compliment an image.
When the class had worked the outside of the palace, it was time to move under the dome and work on photographing the highly symmetrical pillars and design patterns. The exposure times changed, so it was a great time for the class to work on some of the different ways exposure can affect an image.
The wind inside can be a bit tough for some of the flimsier tripods, so the instructors can work with them to increase ISO to a point where they can shorten exposures to minimize the effect of wind on the tripod. The class always comes up with some very unique ways to get new and interesting shots of the details this wonderful piece of Bay Area history has to offer.
Our second stop of the night is always a sure-fire hit. Lombard Street. The twists and turns, and the slow movement of lights on the street, create super interesting streaks of color that help guide the eye through a composition. In addition to the interesting lessons on composition, the class also got to work with the different types of light created by the headlights and taillights. Brian showed the groups a trick using a hat or a glove to cover the lens to let only the right amount of cars to pass through the scene and still allow time to expose the rest of the scene and get the best possible exposure. The class was also lucky enough to get to meet Sammy the neighborhood dog, who always comes out to greet ApCad students on her nightly potty break.
When the class had shot a few different vantage points from top and bottom, it was time for an Aperture Academy FIRST. Scott drove the ApCab DOWN Lombard Street. This narrow road is a beast to navigate in a small car, Scott took our Mercedes Sprinter van, designed for 15 passengers, and drove it safely down the twists and turns of Lombard street, and off to our night break so the class could grab a hot drink or snack to keep them fueled for the last stop.
The Bay Bridge, as seen from the Embarcadero, is one of the iconic night shots in the city. On our stop, the full moon rose right over the south tower of the bridge, adding some extra drama to the scene. We have large prints of this view in our gallery, and everyone always asks, "How do they DO it?" Well, we show our students how, and everyone gets to leave not only with the knowledge of how the shot was made, but a properly exposed version they made themselves.
It's really fun to see how the classes always come away with a new and interesting take on this well-shot locale. Scott and Brian teach right up until the end, really trying to help answer all the questions and work with the trickier white balances, caused by the mix of the natural light and artificial lights on the bridge.
This class was extra enthusiastic and it was after midnight before we could pry them off the Embarcadero and get them back to their cars! The class came away with some dynamite images, and we're looking forward to seeing some of them in the future online or hanging on the walls of their homes!
Until next time,
Brian, Scott 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.
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