I never get used to the fact that there is a wilderness type area like the Marin Headlands so close to a major metropolitan area like San Francisco. It's so strange…but it's what help make this city something truly special for photographers, and why we offer a day of photography in and around this area.
Ellie Stone and I met a group of 13 awesome people in Sausalito for a day of photography in and around this wonderful region. We begin our class with a fun little orientation where we get to know everyone a little better, and find out what they want to “focus” on for the day. Once the formalities are done its time to get to the shooting.
We head high into the headlands to begin where we look back at the Golden Gate and the city. A beautiful blue sky with streaks of white clouds sits above the city and helps give us a perfect teaching tool for using the circular polarizing filters we like people to bring. IN addition to this we also cover a lot of basic topics like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and how they work together. This first stop is bridge we build to get people thinking in a manual mode way for the duration of our time…our goal is to get people using their cameras and not thinking about the settings as much so they can focus on the creativity.
What better place to work on creativity than our second stop…Fort Point. When I hear that Fort Point is a Civil War Era fort, I always think that it's a joke…but it IS a fort from that time period…and I have no idea how it played into any of the history during that time…but it's a great place for photography…That I DO know. Once we get inside Ellie and I break the group up into smaller sections and take them around a few of our favorite spots that showcase some different lighting situations and areas for compositional lessons as well.
One of the areas we visit is the officers quarters where row after row of doorway stack up as far as the eye can see. It's quite a cool thing to see (I'm not sure the privacy with the officers was that awesome…but it makes for a nice photograph) Here we work on symmetry with composition as well as white balance and how it affects the overall feel of a shot. Everyone has fun trying to get in the doorway and work on their own take for this popular spot…every once in a while some tourist wanders across a hallway and leaves a “ghost” behind. CREEPY!
From the inside we head into the brick archways outside, which like the officers quarters offer row upon row of similar shape to shoot…only now our lighting is different so we need to work on WB changes, and also using the grad filters for the first time to hold back a little light on the left side the bleeds in from the outside creating a brighter area. We bring the students through the dimly lit powder room on the base floor to shoot the patterns, learn about depth of field more, and work on focusing on specific areas of a frame…it's a bit cramped, but a lot of fun to work in this old room where one time only special people in special suits were allowed to tread for fear of a massive explosion.
After we've demonstrated our lessons and seen a few of our favorite spots we turn the crew loose to get their exploration on and see what interesting things they can use some of their new found skills on. One of the coolest things we saw was a yoga model doing some poses on the roof…and her silhouette was pretty cool to shoot. There's also this giant orange bridge right above you to photograph…I guess that's pretty nice too…haha.
From one side of the bridge to the other; We head back to Sausalito to have a lunch break before we head out to our sunset spot.
Normally we head to the far side of the Marin Headlands to shoot Rodeo Beach for sunset…but on this special night fate threw a four car pile up on the Golden Gate Bridge that backed traffic up to Oregon and back…so we pulled an Austin Powers turn and went back to Sausalito to shoot one of my favorite little gems. There's a great little pocket beach right in the city with some old pier remains that looks across to the city skyline. The techniques we demonstrate for sunset are the same here as they would be at Rodeo (and probably less wet!) We work on slower shutter speeds to blur the water…using grad filters to balance the light in the sky with the darker foregrounds. We work on composition and trying to create interesting foreground. All of these things are possible here…and we had a great time shooting some of the color that was streaking through the sky.
Fate was not wanting us to go to the Marin Headlands ANYMORE because after Sausalito it was still backed up and we went to Fort Baker to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge from there instead of the headlands (for those on the night class the previous night, this means they got a different angle!) The techniques here are the same as they would be at the headlands, and the shots were gorgeous on the cameras. Longer exposures and higher apertures create stunning night shots.
The way out from here got tricky. The traffic was STILL backed up, and though we drive a massive van, I was able to Austin Powers a turn in a narrow road and deliver us from the pains of standstill and back through Sausalito to everyone's waiting car. This part of the day was a perfect example of why scouting and having a plan B is always great with photography. You never know what circumstances life will throw at you…and it's always better to be shooting, then sitting in a car wishing you were.
Until Our Next Adventure,
Brian, Ellie, 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 here.