San Francisco, I’m convinced, does whatever it wants when it comes to weather. Summers are supposed to be foggy and miserable... and cold. That’s the general prospect for all weather in the city during the summer, but this weather really only extends into the area around the Marin Headlands. Once you hit Sausalito, or the south bay, all the weather patterns change dramatically.
On this particular Saturday, we were thrown a San Francisco curveball that Madison Bumgardner would be proud of... a group of 13 eager photographers joined Phil Nicholas and myself for a full day of photography in the Marin Headlands area of San Francisco, in some interesting weather.
We began class with an orientation, where we’re able to get a good idea of everyone’s skill levels with a camera, and let them know the schedule for the day. Our group was great and came with a variety of skill levels, which keeps Phil and I on our toes, and also allows us to hit upon a variety of different topics throughout the day.
Our first stop was Fort Point. Here we really started to hit on the basics, such as, aperture, shutter speeds, ISO, composition, white balance, and anything else that will give the user a great exposure in the camera. We explored a couple inside locations within the old Civil War era fort, where we can show the class how white balance changes the look of an image, and also, how white balance works in the camera. Of course, we covered the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO while we were enjoying the long row of doorways that separate the officers' bedrooms within the fort; very symmetrical and cool-looking for the cameras.
We also went within the depths of the fort, into the barrel room, where replica powder kegs are set row upon row. I like the repetition of shape here, and the chance to explore shallow depth of field. We also shot a section of the fort with numerous brick archways, that were a great way to compare how light works inside versus outside.
It’s fun to work with the class on the basics, but the real fun of a fort is exploring it on your own, which is why we turned the class loose, with a few ideas in their minds of cool places to explore.
There were numerous puddles around that gave us great opportunities for working with reflections. There was a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the roof, cool reflections of spiral stairways, old canons, and numerous other opportunities for shooting.
After our time in the fort had come to an end (they kicked us out at 5pm), we headed into Sausalito for some dinner and time to recharge a little. Though San Francisco wasn’t foggy and grey today, it was cold, and getting a little time indoors to warm up was welcomed.
After our meal break, we headed through the Marin Headlands. A brief stop at the top near Hawk Hill allowed us a bird's eye vantage point of the Golden Gate, and the city. Phil and I took the opportunity to help with a little bit of filter use, namely the polarizer. This helped give some contrast and depth to the sky, and saturated the colors a little. We also went over a little more on compositional elements and possibilities.
The main goal was Rodeo Beach, though. The tide was out, which meant we were able to head all the way out to the sea stacks. We worked on using the graduated filters, polarizers, and trying to get those long silky exposures of the water.
That silky water look is achieved by upping the aperture as high as it will go... not for the depth of field, but mostly so we can close down the hole where light enters the camera, and get the longest exposures. We also use the lower ISO, and filters like the graduated neutral density, to help us get a little more length to our exposure. It was such a beautiful evening, not even any marine layer on the horizon... just beautiful, warm, summer light.
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a good old Golden Gate bridge night shot. We made a final stop at the headlands so the group could get a little taste of night shooting, and work with longer exposures that are needed to get nice night work. We were able to also help a few folks with their cable releases and remotes... and how to combat a situation where you might not have one, but still want to shoot at night. In this case, we were able to open up apertures a little bit more, and bump up the ISOs a little higher, to compensate for the fact that they couldn’t just switch the bulb mode when the light had faded beyond a 30-second exposure.
What a full day of fun, learning, and photography! Phil and I really enjoyed the group, and taking you all around to some of our favorite spots. Have fun processing all of those great images!
Until next time,
Brian, Phil, 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.