San Francisco is a tricky city. The summers, when most people would expect conditions to be gorgeous and welcoming, are often plagued with thick fog and cold temps. Moody and subtle, these are more difficult days for photography. However, the fall and winter months tend to bring more mild weather to the Bay, and the chances for a gorgeous day behind the lens become much higher. Such was the case on this fine November afternoon when a group of 14 photographers met Aperture Academy professionals Stephen Oachs and Brian Rueb at Baker Beach for a day of instruction, photography and fun.
The first location served as a point for us to do an orientation to get to know the class, their needs, and what kind of equipment they're working with. We also started our shooting there, and got right into the meat of the day. The first location not only offered up an exceptional view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it gave instructors a chance to either delve into camera settings for our more beginning students, or offer thoughts on composition and how to approach a scene for our more intermediate participants. Some students get so into this location that they end up losing themselves in the photography and forget about the waves...and end up a little wet around the edges. We love to see our students getting IN TO the scene!
The class loaded up from this point and set out to old Fort Point underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
Fort Point used to be one of the main cogs in the wheel of defense that guarded the city of San Francisco, California, and possibly the whole country, from outside attack. While the U.S. has let up some in its paranoia of being attacked, they left the fort for tourists and photographers to enjoy. We broke the group up in this location and instructors took them out to some of the fort's more intimate areas and showed them some of the hidden treats the old building has to offer.
In addition to working on all the typical camera settings and functional aspects of photography, the fort is a perfect spot to really work on more of the approach to creating good images, such as, how to photograph symmetry, use filters to balance a scene (even inside), and looking at the small details in addition to the larger scene. Instructors know this fort probably as well as some of the men who were stationed here in the past, and they try to point out some of the best nooks and crannies to students so they have places to explore when they're turned loose on their own.
Instructors work closely with all the students, but try to find a few chances to back off some and let the students practice what they've learned, as well as enjoy some of the thrill in finding a new and original location that the class may not have seen.
Lunch in Sausalito is the next stop — a perfect place to recharge the batteries, talk photography (and nearly get a parking ticket). Group dynamic and camaraderie is very important to us at the Aperture Academy, and we love the breaks as a time to get to know more about our students, and really talk about some of the photographic adventures we've had as well as those they've had or are planning in their future.
The next to last stop was Rodeo Beach, an absolute landscape lover's paradise. Sea stacks, crashing waves and pristine beach are all there for the photographer to capture. We love this spot because it's so vital in showing our students the importance of filters in helping to properly expose a scene, and create that extra "wow" factor in an image...and on this day we were treated to a really nice sunset with which to learn! The colors popped right along with the shutters in our cameras; it was a really special evening for photography. And once again, a few of our more adventurous students got a little wet in capturing those dreamy sunset images.
While not everyone left the beach having been kissed by a wave, everyone was happy with the images in their camera, and excited for the last stop of the night....
The Golden Gate view from the Marin Headlands is a magical place that brings millions of people every year to see it and try their best at capturing its beauty on camera. It's tough if you're not sure how to do it, and we take pride in making sure the students not only get that image they want, but understand the "why" and "how" portion of that process. Knowing your equipment and how to use it properly is so vital in making great images. The less time you spend fiddling with settings, the more time you have to work on composition and creating an image that you're happy with....
Our time ended with a happy group of photographers headed back to the city. On the ride back, their faces were lit up by the glow of their camera screens, as they looked back over the images they'd made during the day and smiled at the thought of how their photos would look once they got back and processed them.
All in all, a beautiful and fun day in the city was had by everyone....
Until next time,
Stephen, Brian, 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.