It’s another beautiful day in the San Francisco Bay Area, a great day for an Aperture Academy workshop! Today’s location would be the amazingly beautiful UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, on the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
I’m never quite sure what is waiting for me there. The weather could be bright and sunny, slightly overcast with wispy clouds, or dense, thick fog. The plants and foliage change through out the season, so every time I visit, it is a little bit different, which it what makes it such a great place for photography. 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. When I arrived for the workshop on a recent Saturday morning, I was greeted by high fog, which gave me somewhat bright skies and a nice light layer of condensation on the plants. These conditions would be a great start for my 3 excited students.
Once everyone arrived, we were ready to get underway. 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.
I covered some basic settings and started everyone off in Manual mode so that we would have the most control of our photographic choices. 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, made our way through the New Zealand Garden with its variety of textures and character. As we moved through the gardens, we were happy to see plenty of bumblebees and honey bees gathering pollen in the flowers, while hummingbirds zoomed around us. We headed down into the South African garden and its alien-like Protea which offers and abundance of variety for images.
Our weather conditions were changing throughout the day, as the fog lifted and the sun started to peek through. I helped my students make appropriate adjustments to ISO and aperture so they could get the best possible shots. Throughout the morning, I continued to check 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. Sometimes you have to get a little dirty to get the shot you want, and everyone was game!
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. As the end of our workshop approached, I answered a few more questions, gave a few last minute tips and reminders, then bid farewell to my little group, knowing that everyone had had a fantastic time.
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.