We all have very busy lives, from work obligations, to spending quality time with our families. Sometimes, all we want is a few hours to relax in nature, enjoy beautiful weather, and photograph beautiful flowers. That's why it is so awesome to have a place like the San Francisco Botanical Garden right in our backyard!! The Garden is an oasis of calm and beauty covering an incredible 55 acres, containing over 8,000 species of plants. It is a perfect backdrop for our Aperture Academy workshop.
On a recent Saturday morning, I met with six eager photographers ready to expand their knowledge about plant and flower photography, and specifically, macro photography. The unpredictable San Francisco weather was promising us a gorgeous morning with a mix of clouds and sun, and pretty mild temperatures. Bright sun is not ideal for flower photography, but it would definitely serve as a great opportunity for my students to work in less than perfect conditions.
Once everyone had arrived, I started the workshop off with some introductions to let everyone get acquainted. Then, I went over some of the technical aspects of photography basics, introducing the exposure triangle, and discussing how aperture (depth of field), shutter speed (motion blur) and ISO (noise) play together to create your image.
Next, I discussed the more creative aspects of photography, such as composition and how to use the Rule of Thirds and leading lines to create dynamic images. In addition, I talked about finding pleasing angles for our subjects, and to be aware of the backgrounds in our images. After we had covered the basics, I had the students set their cameras with some initial settings to start, and we were on our way!
The scenery in the Botanical Gardens constantly changes, and is always different, depending on the season, so it was exciting to discover what was awaiting inside.
We entered through the main gate and made our way past the Great Meadow and through the Temperate Asia area into the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest. We stopped to take advantage of the early morning light, where backlighting through the leaves were casting nice shadows across the petals of colorful flowers. I checked in with each of my students to see how they were doing, and helped them select subjects, find interesting angles, or just help them figure out what setting they wanted to use, and why.
Soon, we noticed the clouds were starting to disappear, leaving behind bright sun and blue sky. As we made our way out of the California Native Garden to the shade of the Redwood Grove, and back into the sun in the Succulent Garden, it was a perfect time to show my students how to adjust their settings to accommodate changes in light. We had to keep adjusting our apertures and ISOs, depending on how much light we had, in order to maintain a fast enough shutter to stop the motion of the slight breeze on our subjects. It was a great learning opportunity and really put the students' skills to the test; and they came away with valuable information because of it.
We continued our journey to the Garden of Perennials, and its wide variety of flowers in bloom, and then went on through the Andean Cloud Forest and into the Australian and New Zealand collections. Each of these areas offer unique and stunning plants to photograph, with no shortage of subjects to choose from. We were even treated to a visit by a hummingbird, but unfortunately, we were not quite quick enough to catch a picture of him.
The Botanical Gardens is not just home to a wide variety of plants, but several species of animals reside there, as well. As we made our way across the Waterfowl Pond, we saw several of these residents. A pair of ducks swam across the water, we caught several turtles sunning themselves on the rocks, while a blue Heron stood majestically across the pond. We stopped and got some great shots... and the heron seemed to be posing for us!
It was all too quickly approaching the end of our time together, and on Aperture Academy workshops, we like to save the best for last. This day was no different. On our way back to the front gate, we stopped at a spectacular grove of red poppies in full bloom! Bees and butterflies abounded, the color was fantastic, and we stopped to take full advantage. What spectacular last shots of the day! The sun was in full force by then, and it was really starting to turn into a rare sunny San Francisco day.
As we left the vivid red of the poppies and made our way back to the entrance gate, I took a few minutes to answer some final questions, and sincerely thank my students for sharing their day with me. I bid them adieu, closing the book on yet another spectacular Aperture Academy workshop.
Until next time,
DeAnna, 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.