Summertime was the best time of year for me when I was younger. In high school, obviously schools out in the summer, so my friends and I had nearly three months to do whatever we wanted. When we could finally drive, we went to the beach, spent time in San Francisco, and generally just lounged around not doing anything that resembled school work. It was our time to be teens and have fun doing what teens do: hang out! If we only had some direction back then. Someone to tell us that we could "work" on stuff AND have it be a fun experience too. When we started the Photo Summer Camp four years ago, that was only stipulation we started with. Teach photography in a fun way and still let kids be kids. This year I had the pleasure of working with fellow Instructor (and kid at heart) Phil Nicholas, along with some returning students from years past.
Monday: Studio Lighting
Our first day began with an introduction to studio lighting techniques. After everyone got acquainted with each other, Phil and I gave them an overview of the various pieces of equipment we would be using. We used a variety of equipment to give the group as much exposure to lighting as possible. We used speedlights, monolights, softboxes, umbrellas, reflectors, gobos, projections, reflective surfaces and radio transmitters. We setup two lighting schemes, one for portraits, and one for products. Everyone got to experience what it was like to both be behind the camera, and in front of it! With the music going, everyone rotated around to the different stations taking pictures and modeling for the entire group. We practiced silhouettes, freezing action mid-air, and our signature "shake-face." Where you just shake your face back and forth and everyone takes pictures of you looking ridiculous. It was too much fun, and it was a great first day.
Tuesday: San Francisco Zoo
After a some more post-processing using techniques learned in Lightroom from day one, Phil and I took the group up to the San Francisco Zoo, to practice on wildlife photography. Wildlife requires the photographer to setup the camera completely different from portrait or landscape photography, utilizing different focusing modes and individual autofocus points, as well as supertelephoto lenses. The skies above San Francisco were overcast, which is perfect for wildlife photography. We started with the big cats and got some great looks from one of the tigers before moving on to the grizzly bears for their morning feeding. One of the big panes of glass at the grizzly gulch was shattered (not by the bears) so we ended up getting non-obstructed views of the bears during feeding. Bonus! With everyone filling their cards rapidly watching the bears we turned around and focused some on the eagles, before heading back to the Lemur Cafe for lunch. After lunch we headed over to the lemurs and caught some amazing shots of these little primates running around and eating, it was fabulous! We started making our way deeper into the African area and stopped off at the mandrills, patas monkeys, and giraffes. With folks running low on battery and space on the cards, we headed for home.
Wednesday: San Francisco Cityscapes
Off to the City again! Today we had the group focused on capturing some good old San Francisco stuff. We made our first stop at the Presidio. The overlooks of Battery Godfrey and Boutelle provide some amazing and unique views of the Golden Gate bridge. We spent some time over there capturing a couple different angles before all of our girls lost their hair (the wind was killer)! We made our way closer to downtown to get our group some awesome shots of the cable cars running up and down Hyde street. We split the group in two and we had them lay in wait looking up and down Hyde street, to get some shots of the cable cars with Alcatraz island in the background. Feeling famished, we hopped over the Golden Gate, and rested in Sausalito for some lunch. Battery Spencer was our next and final stop as we captured the Golden Gate bridge again, this time from the north, looking back at the whole of the San Francisco skyline. After a long car ride back home it was time to end another successful day.
Thursday: Photojournalism in Santa Cruz
Off to the beach today! Summer wouldnt be complete without a trip to the beach, so we obliged and took our group out to Santa Cruz to do some people watching at the Boardwalk. But before that, Phil and I took everyone to Shark Fin Cove, a little well known spot in Davenport thats pretty cool for photography. This cove is a great little spot to practice some nature photography, more specifically, shots of waves! We helped the students to try and find abstract patterns in the waves, barrels, and crashing by either slowing down their shutters, or speeding them up. After a quick stop for lunch it was finally time to get to the Boardwalk and work on our photo-stories. We tasked the group to take 10 photos on the Boardwalk and put them into a story. These 10 photos would be a story about what they saw at the boardwalk, using a specific subject. Some decided on photographing the rides (with slow shutters to enhance the movement), some decided on shooting the different colorful signs, patterns, etc., and some decided on people watching. With our stories complete, and our sunscreen fading, we headed back to basecamp to process the images and get a headstart on our gallery show.
Friday: Gallery Show
For four full days everyone had amassed a wealth of images to scour though and find five favorites to print. We spent the morning helping to finalize their selections and get them ready to print, matte and hang for the show. We took a break here and there for lunch, a photo scavenger hunt (to test their skills) and some more portrait shooting. We had each person find a portrait online that they wanted to replicate themselves. Using the lights and modifiers in the studio we then tried to match our lighting and their expressions to the shot they found online. We got some great shots! Those individual portraits were used in conjunction with a short bio which everyone had to write, to help identify their printed shots. Once everything was printed Phil took the reigns and helped everyone to correctly matte their final prints and then we had them hang them on the wall. Its always a little sad working with everyone on the last day. The kids and parents are so excited to see the work prominently displayed on the walls, and yet everyone knows its the last time theyll be together in the summer camp, hanging out and taking photos. We had a great week of exploring photography and Phil and I are most grateful for the participation of the parents and students to make this week one to remember. Hope to see you again next year! You guys crushed it!
Scott, Phil and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team are extremely proud of you! Until next time...
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.