Sometimes you just need a change of scenery.
Have you ever felt that way? Like you just needed to be out of your normal, everyday routine? Like something had to give? Yeah, me too.
What if I told you, it was easy to do? That you didn’t have to travel to an exotic location or spend hundreds of dollars on airfare and hotels. Not possible you say? I beg to differ. How do I know? Because I do it all the time. And I am happy to share my secret.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, we are blessed with some really wonderful places to go if you want to change things up. From the mountains to the ocean, there really is something for everyone.
For me, I like to seek out places of calm and quiet, places I can relax my mind to enjoy (and photograph) the world around me. One of my favorite places of calm is the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, on the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz campus. The arboretum is a 135-acre research and teaching facility maintaining over 300 plant families, some of which are rare and threatened, from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and California. This rich diversity offers a unique opportunity for study, research, and of course, photography. Hundreds of species providing an almost infinite palette of colors, textures, and patterns. Which is why they are a perfect subject matter for photographers.
On a recent Saturday morning, I met 5 excited photographers looking to maybe change their scenery and explore what the Arboretum had to offer. Yes, it was time for another Aperture Academy workshop! We started with brief introductions to get better acquainted. Then I covered a few of the basic principles of photography that we would be practicing during our workshop. I reviewed the technical aspects of the Exposure Triangle and how Aperture (Depth of Field), Shutter Speed (Motion Blur), and ISO (Noise) work together to create images. Next, I covered some of the more creative aspects of photography and compositional basics like Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, and awareness of your backgrounds and textures.
In addition to finding plants and flowers to photograph, other challenges that photographers are often faced with are changing light and weather. As a coastal town, Santa Cruz is subject to some pretty rapid weather changes. We started out on a cool morning with high, even cloud cover, but I knew we could very soon have bright, sunny skies, so we also discussed how to account for these changing conditions as we moved through the gardens.
Then we were off to explore! The Arboretum landscape constantly changes depending on the season so it is always different and interesting to find out what's currently in bloom. We started in the Australian garden with its tall Eucalyptus trees and bottle brush plants, moved through the New Zealand Garden, down into the South African garden and its alien-like Protea. We continued through the California natives section, and ended up in the Aroma garden and the Succulents with their wide variety of textured and patterned plants. All through the morning, we also encountered big fat bumble bees gathering pollen from their favorite flowers, hummingbirds zooming overhead, and cottontail rabbits munching on the lush greenery.
Throughout the morning, I checked with each of my students to help them fine-tune compositions, explore different camera settings, reinforce some of the concepts we were learning about, and most importantly, make sure everyone was having fun!! I challenged everyone to really look at the subject matter, try to see the different angles, move positions to create more interesting compositions, and appreciate the colors, textures, and the setting as a whole. It was awesome to see everyone getting up close and personal with the plants they saw. No one was afraid of getting a little dirty!!
As our time on the workshop was coming to a close, I answered a few more questions, encouraged everyone to stay and enjoy the day. I walked away knowing that my students had enjoyed our time as much as I did. The change of scenery worked again!
So you see, you don’t have to go far for a change of scenery. It can be just down the road, over the hill, or even right in your own back yard. If you join me on an Aperture Academy Workshop, I show you just how easy it can be.
Until next time,
DeAnna 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.