When I was young, I remember summer being this awesome time where I went on trips, hung out with family and friends, and did a whole lot of nothing. Doing nothing was great, because it meant that I wasn't thinking about school. I seem to remember being in school just waiting for that last day for summer to begin, and for me to cast off and forget about school, at least for a little while.
I don't think kids today are that much different, but these days there are many more opportunities to spend summer doing "nothing" (read, not school) in a more productive way. Many years ago, we at the Aperture Academy wanted to create an environment for kids at summer break and have them experience a week learning and having fun with photography, that also didn't feel like school. So the photo summer camp was born.
Monday: Studio Lighting
Everyday we have a theme for our workshop, and Monday is portrait day. But with a twist. Instead of bringing in someone to photograph, the students photograph themselves. Everyone searched online for a portrait they deemed interesting, then using our studio lights and equipment, we took the photo to look as closely as the one they chose. We showed them how to decipher a lit portrait and figure out how many lights were used, subject placement and body position, as well as how to process each image to mimic the photo they chose.
We also had another area setup for some product photography, where they could use the equipment to shoot anything they desired, even though this week most chose to shoot Phil's vintage Hassleblad 503. In addition to taking their own mimicked portrait, we taught them about basic lighting setups and let them take over the studio and play professional for a day.
Tuesday: San Francisco Zoo
Today's theme was an introduction to wildlife photography. We spent a little bit of the morning at the computers processing and organizing photos from Monday's session, but then we hit the road up to San Francisco.
The San Francisco Zoo is a nice place for animal photography. It's not perfect, but there are some enclosures that put you in a really good spot to see the animal action. Wildlife photography can be just as demanding as portraits, but in a different way. First we had to completely reprogram the way that our cameras shoot. Almost every setting on the cameras had to be changed to adapt to the new setting.
From there we walked around the zoo, from pen to pen, and tried to be in the right spot at the right time. Easier said than done. But we did get lucky with a few of the animals.
The patas monkeys are always lively, the snow leopard gave us more than a few awesome big-toothed yawns, the grizzlies were active, as well as the lemurs. And in the African section, we got some great profiles of the silverback gorilla. We swung back around to the penguins to indulge a couple of the kids before heading back the gallery for the long process of downloading and culling our images.
After our morning session of culling and processing, we headed back up to San Francisco for yet another different type of photography. Cityscapes. And this city by the bay is full of beautiful vantage points from which to take them in.
We started off trying to get above the fog from atop twin peaks, a towering hill overlooking the downtown skyline. Once summiting the hill, the views were incredible. Downtown was free of fog, and surrounding the hillsides, the fog gently cascaded over their slopes like waves.
From there we went to Fort Baker, for another view of the city skyline, but more importantly, the Golden Gate Bridge. There's a little fishing pier there that's always got some interesting elements to play around with, using the bridge as a backdrop.
After lunch in Sausalito, we headed up to Hawk Hill, where the fog obscured all but the top of the south tower of the Golden Gate. And then we headed down a little farther to our final stop at Battery Spencer, where from the windswept cliffs overlooking the bridge, we got the best photos of it and the city, while nearly losing our hats.
The theme for today was street photography at the Beach Boardwalk. But before we dove into that project, we headed up the coast to a less populated beach called Shark Tooth Cove, for some beach fun.
As the waves crashed against the rocky walls of the cove, our group spent time trying to capture the motion of the water, as well as each other, without getting their feet wet! We did some traditional train track images on the defunct rail line, using the leading lines, as well as grabbing a couple Instagram-like photos before heading out to grab lunch.
At the Boardwalk, we had our group try to envision themselves as photojournalists, using their imaginations to formulate an individual story about their time there. Phil and I helped them to use their cameras, and themselves, in way as to not distract their subjects from the surroundings and grab some really great street photos. We put many techniques into use, like using longer lenses and shallower depths of field to isolate the subjects, using silent shutters, and most importantly, patience.
Friday: Gallery Show
Our final day at camp is traditionally used to prepare for the gallery showing, where each student has six photos printed, mounted and displayed on wall with lighting, for the enjoyment of friends and family. It's a culmination of their efforts throughout the week, and we had some amazing photos to share!
I started printing the smaller photos and we had everyone mount them in display books before heading out to lunch. Upon our return we had everyone's larger photos ready to print and display, but before that could happen we put our group to the test. A photo scavenger hunt, which would test their new-found photo skills, as well as their creativity.
While the teams were out shooting for the hunt, I stayed back ensuring their larger photos printed out with perfection. We then had each student mount them in mats and backer-boards and then chose a winning team to display their work on the wall first. As the lights went up and all the photos were displayed, we kicked back for a moment and admired the fruits of our combined labor.
Next, we had everyone put together slideshows of their favorite images and lay in wait for the show to begin.
As the parents made their way in, I showed some images I had taken of the class during the week, much to the chagrin of our more shy-faced participants. Once the moment was ready, we gently rose the screen covering their work, flipped on the display lights and finally showed the parents what these wonderful young photographers had been up to all week!
What a week it was! Phil and I had so much fun being with you guys this week, and it's always a very proud moment once the curtain goes up and everyone gets to revel in your creations. Cheers to you guys! We hope to see you all again soon!
Until next time...
Scott, Phil and the rest of the Aperture Academy team are very proud of you
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.