Big Sur is one of my favorite stretches of coastline on the planet. A Rocky, rugged coastline with an ocean that is 50-shades of blue. It’s just stunning, there’s no other way to put it. It’s why our Big Sur workshop is so popular. Everyone wants to come see this and learn how to capture it with the camera.
Phil and I met 12 awesome photographers in Carmel for a pre-trip orientation, and mini-lesson on manual camera shooting before heading out into the wild. We covered the basics. Aperture. Shutter Speed. ISO. Right there in the parking lot, so when we arrived at our first location, The Carmel Mission, we’d be ready to hit the ground running, or shooting.
In that first session in the parking lot our goal is to stress the importance of establishing a system, or routine when shooting. This helps newer photographers and people who might be easily overwhelmed with a variety of technical issues to have a way to keep progressing with their photography...but doing it the same way each time. For me that method is Aperture---Shutter Speed---and ISO if needed. We try to hammer this in with this order, so people get used to what they do, and how to change them...and WHEN to change them
People nodded their heads, and I think were beginning to get a rough grasp of the settings, those who had shot for many years probably already knew the terms, but maybe had a different way of looking at them. It was time to put them into practice.
The Carmel Mission is SO nice. There is always some kind of flower in bloom. There is contrast, color, pattern, repetition of shape, perspective, texture...EVERYTHING you could want for creating a photograph. The best part is that it’s not in your face...you have to look, and find it. This makes teaching composition here a lot of fun. The flowers on this visit were amazing, and so many great shots were made of all the various colored and shaped blooms. Once inside Phil and I began seeking out each of the students, showing them some of our favorite little nooks in the area, and going over those camera settings again. We showed the students how to take test shots, read histograms, and then make necessary adjustments. We saw some really great images on the cameras. Two hours in the Mission FLEW by, and before we knew it we were on our way south
Bixby Bridge was built in the early 1930s, and is an engineering marvel. This giant cement bridge not only is built cool...it looks cool. It makes for an interesting segment of an image of the rocky coastline. A bit of fog hung in the air, but we were still able to discuss what a polarizing filter will do for glare on water, and how it can help a shot. We also covered composition, and depth of field here with some of the students who made images where the foreground was in focus and the bridge was slightly out of focus, creating emphasis on specific parts of the frame. We also got to practice our 157-point turn.
From the bridge it was a drive down the highway to McWay Falls. Here we went over longer exposures, and how to trick the camera into thinking it was darker outside, and get really long exposures. We did this with Solid ND filters, grad filters (sometimes stacked) and polarizers...and combinations of these filters...anything to hold back light and lengthen the exposures. Of course we also kept preaching the manual settings, and following a routine when shooting.
We made a brief stop on the road on the way to “sunset” to shoot some light beams streaming out of the clouds. The fog was pretty thick, but the momentary gap lead to some really pretty light on the sea. Had to stop and take advantage!
Our final stop for the night was A rocky cove outside of Carmel...though it was overcast, the concepts we were working on can still be wildly effective in this kind of light, and sometimes the lack of bright sky can realty help balance out an exposure and lend for getting longer exposures without as many filters. The blue of the water, and the greens of the foliage mixed with the lighter colored stone is beautiful in any kind of light...and there’s something so aesthetically pleasing about the ocean here in a long exposure. Very rich blues, laced with the white lines of sea foam...really nice stuff. We saw some excellent exposures on the back of the cameras...if it would’ve stayed twilight forever, I think everyone would still be shooting! We made a twilight group shot and then headed back to the car to make the short drive back to everyone’s waiting vehicles. It was time now for everyone to go home, practice more and get to processing all of those images they made over the day.
Phil and I would like to thank everyone for a great day on the coast, we really enjoyed ourselves.
Until Next Time,
Brian, Phil 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.