Oftentimes our interest in photography manifests at a young age, as it did with myself. My father was interested in photography and he had a nice 35mm Voigtlander, Bessamatic camera. I would borrow it and take photos of my horses and dogs, along with anything else that I found appealing.
On this first day of the Aperture Academy Photography Summer Camp, I gazed at the faces of 12 teens that also shared this early interest in photography.
This first day began with introductions. Kristen and I told our personal stories, and how we first realized that photography was an extreme interest of ours. Afterwards we called on the students to tell their stories, and what brought them to Aperture Academy for this 5-day immersion into the realm of photography and fun. Once getting to know one another, I went over some camera and compositional basics, especially the relation to portraiture, as this was our focus today. Now that everyone was on the same page, we moved outdoors for a natural light portrait lesson. Luckily our intern Megan was on hand to help us out with a little modeling. I had initially wanted the students to take photos of each other, but it was early and they were still a bit shy (this would not last long). Kristen and I led them around the Pruneyard shopping center and chose some simple and obvious backgrounds, as well as the not so obvious and more technically challenging. The students were capturing some really nice portraits, while starting to understand what settings to use for superior images. After a 1-hour lunch break, we hit the streets again, in search of more fun and interesting portrait backdrops. The students had started to loosen up a little and indulged me by doing a little modeling. I intern did a little myself, while giving them an assignment. The assignment was to capture an image of me with my “on loan” camera bag. Not just any image, but an image worthy of a magazine advertisement they did a fabulous job, and I chose an image of Natalie’s to use as my new Profile photo. By the afternoon the students had their fill of natural light portraits, so it was now time to get them going on one of the classroom computers. Kristen demonstrated how to set up their individual Lightroom Catalogs, and the image uploading began. I went over some processing basics and let the students have a little time on their own to sort and edit this set of images, from day one.
A day of photography and fun at the San Francisco Zoo was in store for all on day 2. The Zoo opens at 10am, so we had time for more post processing in Lightroom 4, before departing for SF in the Aperture Academy logoed, Mercedes Sprinter van, otherwise known as ApCab! The weather could not have been more perfect it was overcast, but not too cold. This kept us comfortable, the animal’s active, and best of all, provided a soft even light for photography. After I dispersed the Zoo entry tickets, we made our way to the African Region. There’s a new edition in this region, in the form of a baby giraffe. The baby was lanky and a bit awkward, which made her even more adorable. Her name is Erin and she’s only a few months old. Kristen and I made sure that all the students got to see and photograph Erin, with the proper camera settings. The African Region is rich in photo ops, but I wanted to get over to Grizzly Gulch, so we would be there for the 11:30 feeding. The two female grizzlies have a wonderful internal clock; they know when 11:30 is approaching so they usually pace in the outdoor enclosure, waiting for that gate to food, to open. Some great action images can be had, so once again Kristen and I made sure the students were ready to capture that action with the proper camera settings. Seeing the Bears eat made everyone want their own lunch, so we all had a nice break to fuel up at the Lemur Café. After break we roamed throughout the Zoo and photographed some cute critters, including the baby Tiger, Jillian, and a couple of adorable River Otters. We had a very fun and productive day at the SF Zoo. Back at the Aperture Academy Gallery we uploaded the photos and started some post processing, day two had definitely flown by.
On Wednesday we traveled to Santa Cruz. On our drive over we discussed two different choices the teens had for the day. They could either tell a story with their images or they could choose to focus on shape, color, and texture. When we got to the Boardwalk it was vibrant with color and just beginning to come to life. We took a few photos of the rides, benches, carnival games, and architecture and then we headed down to the beach. At the end of the beach we went under the dark pier where we were able to get some great perspective shots of the seemingly never-ending posts holding up the pier. We were also able to get some beautiful long exposure images with the water coming in and curling as it met the sand.
After a quick lunch and a happy birthday song and cupcake for one of our campers we headed to Natural Bridges for more beachscapes. The rock at natural bridges allows for some great compositions and the people in the foreground added a nice sense of scale. We also took a lot of faster shots here, capturing the waves as they washed ashore.
After a nice day at the beach we came back to the gallery where we downloaded our images and began to work on them. The images that day were very creative with unique compositions and rich and vibrant colors.
Thursday we went to San Francisco. Our first stop was the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts. We took wide-angle shots of the Palace from a distance framing it with the large leaves and full trees to create a more interesting composition. We also saw beautiful flowers and played with depth of field between the flowers and the palace, letting each have its turn in focus. After a while we walked closer to the rotunda and got out our widest lenses including a few fish-eyes. We were able to play with perspective and composition by getting low on the ground and emphasizing the already tall columns holding up the rotunda.
After a delicious lunch, we headed to Fort Point where we went to the barrel room and focused on longer exposures that allowed us to keep our ISO’s low and play with ghosting. We also experimented with composition in areas that had seemingly never ending doorways, crouching down and trying to get perfectly in the middle for a balanced composition. Then we went up to the roof where the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge was just peeking through a blanket of fog. We experimented with color and composition and came back to the Gallery with an iconic shot of the bridge. We had a full day in San Francisco and had just enough time to empty our memory cards for the next day.
Today was our final day, and it was definitely bittersweet. Kristen and I assisted the students with image preparation, as they need to select 5 of their favorites for prints. That evening we had arranged a gallery showing, for family and friends. They had all captured so many images during camp; it would be a little difficult to choose only 5. As they worked at sorting and editing, I put together a little photo scavenger hunt for them. We placed them in 3 teams of 4, Team F/stop, Team Shutter Speed, and Team ISO (aka Kyle and friends). Letting them loose in the Pruneyard shopping center, (along with my not so sneaky monitoring) their goal was to capture the 10 items on my list. The list had some fun things, like a person in a hat, and also some technical, like shallow depth of field. Once everyone was finished, Kristen and I reviewed all the images, along with the students, on our big screen television. It came down to two teams, and it was very hard to choose a winner. After much discussion and toil, we finally chose a winner, although everyone really embraced the challenge and did a fantastic job!
That afternoon was spent in preparation for the gallery showing. The students matted and mounted their images in our classroom gallery, and we put out some snacks and beverages. It was nice to meet the all the family members and talk about how fantastic the week went. Kristen and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire time, and can’t wait until next years Photography Summer Camp!
Ellie, Kristen, Megan 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.