There's not much better than San Francisco on a nice spring day. White clouds floating through a blue sky, a cool breeze blowing, and a bunch of naked dudes on a beach? This was what greeted our Aperture Academy workshop crew as we started our Marin Headlands workshop.
While everyone of our eager photographers comes to us with a different level of camera experience, and knowledge I don't think anyone really knew how to handle a beach full of naked dudes who seed perfectly fine to be the main subject of the photos being made…though they were not the intended subject.
Fellow instructor Jean Day and I walked the beach working with students on composition tips (or tips how to recompose to remove unwanted nudity) and for the beginning photographers we started with the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. A few photographers have solid ND filters, and we were able to get some really nice long exposures.
Once we finished our enlightening experience of photographing the Golden Gate Bridge we moved on to our second stop, the Civil War garrison ‘Fort Point' this old building is one of the gems of San Francisco that even many locals have yet to visit.
Once inside we split into two separate groups and Jean and I show the class several of our favorite spots inside this old brick fortress.
There is so much to see here that many people often say they could stay all day here. We show the class several spots with not only different lighting, but also different camera and compositional lessons. A long row of doorways provides our first challenge. We work here on the way that white balance works, and the proper settings for shooting inside. Compositionally this location has a very high level of symmetry and we try to explain the way to deal with that in the shots. Our second location offers similar concepts in terms of symmetry, but the lighting has changed to outside now and that requires adjustments to white balance again, and reducing shutter speeds. The final stop is a small room filled with old powder barrels. These repeating shapes again help give us some great ways to discuss composition. This location also lets us explore the use of shallow depth of field, and setting our focus to bring our select details.
Once we've shown the class a little bit of this great fort we turn the class loose to explore some on their own. Jean and I spend this time looking for the students and seeing what they are working on and offering tips on settings, and composition.
Due to some crazy good weather traffic in the city we opted to hit a different spot for our afternoon snack break. This location offered to be quite entertaining, and the class was almost treated to the storeowner blowing up his vehicle by leaving a burning cigarette in the ash-tray.
Our sunset stop was the bustling Rodeo Beach. The potential for a decent sunset was there, and everyone was excited to get out and set up…but that required braving the “GUANTLET!” first. The waves need to be timed here in order to make it to the open area we photograph from. While the waves weren't ‘Mavericks' level crazy, they got the heart pumping a little as we jogged through this area and out on to the black sand.
Out on the rock the class set up and Jean and I passed out graduated filters, and got everyone familiarized with the settings we would be using to capture the moving water with long exposures. We saw some really nice exposures, and shots on the backs of the camera. Everyone got to a comfortable level with the waves, and Jean and I offered up some tips on composition for those willing to get a little closer to the water, and offered tips in juxtaposition of the rocks for those with not as wide angle lenses, or a healthy fear of the waves.
Overall we never got the color explosion we'd anticipated, but the detail and definition in the clouds combined with a really nice set of cool tones still made for some really nice images.
The class was upbeat as we again braved the ‘Guantlet' on our way back to the van for our last stop at the Golden Gate Bridge overlook. A little night shooting is the perfect way to end a class. Everyone lines up and we help him or her get the beginning settings down to shoot night photography. This again has us reiterate the use of white balance we previously discussed in the fort as well as hammer in those aperture and shutter speed settings. For those who don't have a remote or cable release, this gives us a nice example of when to use higher ISO.
It's always fun here because often there are so many people here shooting who don't know how to create the shot, and they often see the shots on the backs of our student cameras, and ask “HOW DID YOU MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THAT?!” Then they proceed to turn on their flash and keep shooting. It's why we keep doing what we do! This was a really fun bunch of people, and Jean and I were sad to see them leave…but they all left promising to send us links to the nice shots they came away with! Until Next Time, Brian, Jean, and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team
Until Next Time,
Brian, Jean, Joe 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.