Night can be one of the most intimidating times of the day for photography. We often find ourselves driving past a city scene at night wanting to capture that beauty of the lights, the reflection in the water...but when we take out the camera to capture the image...it never turns out.
Friday night, a group of dedicated photographers met at Baker Beach to learn how to take the intimidation factor out of night time photography.
The first stop for our Night Owl workshops is Baker Beach. It provides us a chance to really get to know where our class stands as far as knowledge of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc. This is also where we find out what it is each student wants to come away with most during the evening.
The meeting time at Baker Beach gives us chances to shoot a sunset, when the light is nice...and lets us begin our night work just as the lights come on along the Golden Gate, and the reflection in the surf begins to glow with the brilliant oranges of the bridge.
Our group was eager to learn, and while we always try to keep to a schedule, we have all night to shoot...one of the advantages of night photography is that we're not trying to be somewhere to capture a sunset. It's nice, because if people are having a good time, we can be more flexible and stay until they feel like they have an image they're happy with.
When we'd finished with Baker Beach, it was time to pack up the van and head into the city. The second stop on this night was Lombard Street. People often drive it...or see it in photos...but It's not every day that an army of photographers is turned loose on the road.
Our eager group overtook Lombard, each student finding their ideal location to shoot from. Aperture Academy instructors Stephen and Brian worked the street helping students fine tune their compositions and set their cameras in order to use longer exposures to capture the streak of car lights as they made their way slowly down the city's most crooked road.
Lombard Street is an ideal location to work on using light streaks as a leading line into images that give photographs a bit of mystery and interest. This class was excited to shoot, and every time we thought we could leave, they were off to find more compositions. The nice thing about night photography is it can't get any more night...we're in no hurry.
We had a beautiful night of clear skies to shoot. Only the chilly air was of any concern to us, and after we finished with Lombard Street, we stopped so the group could grab a snack or warm beverage before heading off to our next spot. Taking these small breaks is a great way for us to push the boundaries of legal parking in the city, as well as experience a bit of the hustle and bustle that happens every weekend in San Francisco.
The next spot on the agenda is always one of our favorites -- the Bay Bridge from Embarcadero. Even though Stephen tried his best to get Brian's car hit by a TRAIN, all parties made it in one piece and within minutes of parking, we were set up and making images.
A lot of the concepts covered on the night workshops are the same at every location. Exposure settings and composition...but the goal is to really ingrain the concepts by providing a number of awesome locations for them to practice.
The Bay Bridge is stunning at night and the pilings in the water really give compositions a nice balance, and make them far more interesting to the viewer. The Embarcadero isn't the only place where the view of the Bay Bridge is spectacular, which is why we take our classes to a little overlook on Treasure Island that provides us with a different take on this structure and adds a skyline of San Francisco into the mix as well. (It must be a site to see 15 photographers with tripods lined along the road at midnight.)
Even though Friday was becoming Saturday, our group was NOT losing their drive to use that new found knowledge and capture more images. It seemed even when we stopped for a bathroom break our class was grabbing their gear and running to any vantage point near by to shoot more images of the city.
We ended our class the way it began...photographing the Golden Gate Bridge. The last vantage point we use is a nice little area off the beaten path for most. We get to use traffic lines on the bridge to lead the eye of the viewer into the compositions. We're doing so many of these workshops that even the police officers that patrol the area are recognizing us!
Night photography can be tricky, but an enthusiastic attitude, combined with the valuable knowledge and experience our instructors possess, it no longer becomes an exercise in intimidation. Instead, it's a fun evening out with like-minded individuals pursing a passion.
Thanks for a great evening, class!
Until next time,
Stephen, Brian, 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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