Night in San Francisco, the lights come on and the city takes on a different vibe than it has during the day. It's really magical to see, and we always get asked, "How do you take a photograph of this?"
That's why we began our Night Owls class and why 13 new faces showed up on Baker Beach on a Friday evening to meet instructors Scott Donschikowski and Jean Day. Our continuing mission: to help explain away the mysteries and nuances associated with this unique and extremely fun facet of photography.
The Golden Gate Bridge was covered in a thick fog while the crowd was assembling. Jean and Scott began the usual round of introductions and walked everyone through the night's activities. As we got to the end of meeting our group for the night, the fog from the Pacific had not retreated, and we left the Golden Gate Bridge to be consumed in its sea of soup. We eagerly looked forward to the next spot on our list, The Palace of Fine Arts.
The Palace is an extraordinary place. Almost a century ago, the original construction was built for the Pan-Pacific Convention. After years of neglect and falling into disrepair, it was rebuilt in 1965 and looks pretty much the way it did in its formative years. The prodigious columns and center rotunda, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, are an impeccable subject for night photography.
At night, the Palace becomes illuminated with light, and against the dimming of twilight, provides for some amazing pictures. Scott and Jean led the students around the exterior and interior of the Palace, pointing out their favorite spots and helping the students to capture every facet of this awe-inspiring landmark. After a quick break for some food, it was time to head on to the next stop.
Lombard Street is one of the most photographed streets in San Francisco, with the sharpness of its descent only matched by the sharpness of its turns. We split the group in two so each photographer could try different compositions from two different vantage points.
Lombard Street may be the most photographed street, but at night we have the place all to ourselves. The two groups took up positions - one upper, one lower - and we began to wait for the magic to happen. Using long exposure techniques, the headlights and taillights from the cavalcade of tourists driving down the street allowed us to get amazing one-off light streaks dancing through the images. Every single shot is completely unique, and due to the heavy fog, the ambiance was increased for the better.
Our last stop of the night was our signature shot of the Bay Bridge. It's a perfect landscape-style shot to end the evening and keep those "wows" being repeated. The old pier pilings make for a nice foreground element and with Scott and Jean hopping around explaining about white-balance and proper exposures, those "wows" were heard into the night. What an amazing group we had; fun, enthusiastic, and eager. A big thanks to our students for making the night so enjoyable.
Until next time,
Scott, Jean, 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.