San Francisco is filled with so many iconic locations that it’s often hard to figure out where to shoot and what to shoot. If you add to the fact that many people are overwhelmed by their new digital cameras, it can be a daunting adventure to spend a day in the Bay and come away with any really great photographs.
Scott and I met a group of a dozen eager photographers who were ready for a big day of learning and fun in and around some of San Francisco’s most iconic locations.
Our group loaded up in the ApCab and set off for our first spot…Fort Point.
It’s amazing how many people who have lived in and around the Bay Area their whole life have not been to this amazing Civil War era fort. Once inside we break our group up into two smaller factions and set off to show the class a few of our favorite spots within the walls.
We shoot a long hallway filled with doorways that is both a great place to cover the issues of depth of field and exposure, as well as white balance and compositional elements. We take a lot of time here to really utilize the creativity the scene provides and the chance to talk through a lot of technical issues people come into contact with.
We also shoot a similar scene in terms of composition only instead of being inside and doorways; we are outside with brick archways. This gives us a chance to continue the setting discussion, reapply similar compositional ideas and work on the differences in white balance. Add to it that this shot is amazing and it makes for such a fun location.
The last spot we take the group to in the fort is the old keg powder room…here we talk about composition a great deal and how to shift focus with depth of field and zooming in. This is where a lot of the class works on getting the bokeh effect that a shallower depth of field gives.
Once we’ve given out all the instruction for these locations we turn the class loose in the fort to find their own compositions and just take in all the spectacular vistas this location provides. The roof of the fort offers what is arguably one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the city.
After our foray into the fort we head to Sausalito for a lunch break, where we cross paths with our other Aperture Academy Group who had similar ideas for their snack break.
With tasty food in our stomachs we head up to Hawk Hill where we take in a “bird’s eye” view of the city and the bridge. Here we leave the tripods behind and talk a little about how to switch up modes when you’re shooting hand held to shoot for roughly 2x the focal length you’re shooting, and also continue our talk about composition.
Sunset we spend our time on Rodeo Beach. This little slice of nature sits SO close to the hustle and bustle of San Francisco but feels like you’re on a remote island with the crashing surf and rocky beach. It’s winter, so that means the surf along the pacific is angry…and huge waves are crashing and breaking all along the coastline. Our little cove is fairly sheltered from the battering of these monster waves, but the turbulence has moved a lot of the sand away from the area revealing very aesthetically pleasing foreground options. Add in a few great sea stacks and you have all the elements needed for a great composition. While the cloud cover was thick, a few select gaps in the sky left us hopeful we could get something great…and for a few moments everything went right and we had some great colors in the sky…mixed with the longer exposures we were encouraging the class to use and their new found affection for grad filters…we saw some AMAZING work on the backs of those cameras. It was great.
We can’t bring a bunch of folks to San Francisco and not shoot the Golden Gate Bridge…so on our way back to the cars we stop and have a shot of the Golden Gate as the last of the days glow fades from the sky and the lights come on in the city. The cloudy sky helps give all the images an added boost of color and depth. This isn’t a night photography class, but it is a great way to give our awesome group a small taste of what that experience is like…and for the few people that were with us the night before on our Night Owls Workshop it gave them a chance to fix anything they were not happy with the night before, and a sky full of clouds…which they were lacking in their previous shots.
It was a fantastic day in the city, one that Scott and I truly enjoyed. We had a great group of photographers who learned a lot, and came away with some really nice work throughout the day.
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.
NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments.