We’ve been teaching night courses in San Francisco for almost a decade, and I can honestly say that each time we have another class things look different…it’s never the same. The group dynamic, and ever changing weather makes each class unique…which makes every new experience unlike any other. For our groups they all want to have some of the mystery taken out of night photography…and there’s really no better place to do that than San Francisco. The variety and drama of every location we visit makes for a memorable night for everyone.
After a brief orientation so that Scott and I can get to know the students and their gear a little more, we set off in our blue Aperture Academy Van. Our first location for the evening is the Palace of Fine Arts. This is a spectacular piece of architecture, but photographing it can be troublesome, it has a very high contrast with the brightness of the building and the darkness of the sky…it gives us a great opportunity to cover not only the typical aperture and shutter speed settings, but also how we can cover multiple exposures and how different situations call for different approaches.
Our second stop is Lombard Street…this is probably one of the best places for learning. We shoot taillights and headlights as they wind down the twists and turns of this crooked street. This is where we really get creative with the long exposures, and using the longer shutter speeds to help give us movement in the photo. While the buildings and street are not moving they will remain sharp, but anything moving like cars will leave behind streaks of light from their headlights or taillights. The curves of the road give us a chance to talk about composition as well. The curve in the road provides a ‘S’ that will help guide the viewers’ eye through the image.
For the headlights we also get a chance to do some live action dodging and burning as we cover up the images part way through in order to get the exact type of exposure we want. It’s a lot of fun and the whole class gets to try something that they’ve likely not done before with photography.
Our 3rd stop is a great view of the Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero. It’s one of San Francisco’s most iconic locations for the bridge. Here we have great foreground interest, and a perfect view of the bridge. This is the time of the night where a lot of the things we cover are starting to set in so we’re just re-teaching and providing small changes to compositions, white balance, and tweaking exposure a little here and there. The class largely is looking great now, and the images we’re seeing on the screens are all really nice!
A trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. We load up and set off for the Marin Headlands. Here we find a spot high above the bridge and turn our cameras to this magnificent and iconic view. Once again Scott and I are just going over settings, teaching how changing white balance can help give the subject a slightly different feel…and then tweaking compositions a little here and there. The inversion layer that has hit the city has pushed the cold air down leaving us in a pleasant wind-free shooting environment. It’s the perfect way to draw a close to our night of photography, fun, and education.
The only thing left is to get the class back to their vehicles so they can head home grab some sleep and get to processing all of those images!
Until Next Time,
Brian, Scott, 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.
NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments.
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