The city of San Francisco is a premiere destination for photography of all sorts, its many bridges, coves, historic buildings, bluffs, and people, provide a multitude of photographic possibilities. But at night, its even more impressive! Aperture Academy's most popular workshop, The Night Owls, takes photographers on a tour of the city, after the sun goes down, and lights come on. Matt Granz and I headed up to the city on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Clear skies all around, gentle breeze from the west, it was sure to be a great night for photography in The City.
We met up with our 12 eager photographers at Baker Beach, just south of the Golden Gate, which provides the perfect backdrop for our photos, whether on the beach below, or the cliffs above. After our orientation, we packed everyone into our van The ApCab, and headed to our first spot at Battery Godfrey, to catch the sunset. It was pretty spectaular, although not as epic as some we had seen in the years past. The marine layer slowly encroached inland and provided some layers for the waning sun to reflect on. We spent our time around the battery, working with everyone on composition, and getting everyone comfortable with their respective cameras, and shooting in manual mode.
After being windswept up on the bluffs for about an hour, we packed everyone up and headed to the Palace of Fine Arts, right on schedule for blue hour. The Palace is an amazing, monstrous structure, which really comes alive at blue hour, or just after the sun goes down and before its gets dark. We arrived just in time to take advantage of the blueish hues beginning to fade away in the skies above. Typically one would want to shoot the Palace head on with the reflection pool at this time, to take advantage of the blue skies above, and the golden lights illuminating the Palace, all with the calm waters of the pool reflecting everything. Its a sight to see! After working the compositions in front of the Palace, and the blue light now gone, we moved around to the inside area, to take a more abstract approach with our photos. Matt and I taught everyone about symmetry and leading lines, the basics of architecture photography. After we had our fill, it was time for a short break, for food and drink, en route to our next stop.
Lombard Street is famous for being the "crookedest street in the world" and in part, the section on Russian Hill is pretty crooked. It was built that way in 1922 to alleviate the 27% grade and make it easier for cars to traverse it. And in doing so, at night one can setup a camera and see the streaks of car lights passing through the frame. Matt and I split the group in two and half headed down to shoot upwards at the oncoming cars, and half stayed at the top to shoot the opposite. I cant really explain in words exactly what it looks like in camera to experience this. Its a really cool phenomenon of leaving the shutter open while cars descend the hills switchbacks, and the results are these really cool light streaks traversing the roadway. We got quite a bit of action on Lombard that night, so much so, that people just wanted to stay and keep shooting it. But by now it was closing in on midnight, and we still had more stop to make!
Along the Embarcadero right next to the Bay Bridge, is a perfect spot for capturing a quintessential shot of San Francisco. Second only to the views of the Golden Gate, this spot alongside the Embarcadero, is one of The City's most popular and recognizable. And tonight, the light did not disappoint. Its was one of the most impressive displays Ive ever seen at this particular spot, and everyone got a chance to photograph it. I love when that happens! The marine layer, which usually is the bane of every photographers existence, had perfectly brought in enough low lying clouds for the city lights to reflect up into them, and they were high enough that they didnt obscure the bridge. So all the multicolored lights on the bridge, the East Bay, and Treasure Island, were putting on a display that one only sees in a blue moon. The conditions could not have been better. After a quick and humorous group shot, it was time to head back to Baker Beach.
Due to new construction in the Presidio area, the exit we normally take to get off the freeway was closed. So at the end of our night, with everyone less than 2 minutes away from their cars, we were forced to detour onto the Golden Gate bridge and make a brief trip across and back! It definitely provided some chuckles!
Until Next Time,
Scott, Matt 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. (More photos below the comments.)