San Francisco Night Owls Photography Workshop | June 8th, 2013

San Francisco Night Owls Photography Workshop - June 8th, 2013

Night Owls Night Photography Workshop Students with Aperture Academy

Do what you love and love what you do, which is just what Matt Granz and I did on this Saturday night in greeting a group of thirteen eager photographers at Baker Beach in San Francisco. With urban night photography on the agenda, we began by introducing ourselves to get to know our students, their skill levels, and what each hoped to accomplish so Matt and I could better help our students with their individual needs.

A heavy fog lingered just above the city skyline as we all piled into the ApCab van and headed up to Battery Godfrey for our first stop of the night. There the students had a chance to warm up their trigger fingers finding a nice balance in their compositions as the lights on the Golden Gate Bridge began to glow. As daylight dimmed, we helped our students in achieving longer exposure times to create light trails of the cars streaming across the bridge. Instructions on composition, shutter speed, depth of field, the importance of a sturdy tripod, and a remote or shutter release chord were all discussed and practiced to get the best image possible for each student's set up.

Following this warm up session it was time to travel over to the Palace of Fine Arts and take advantage of the beautiful golden light of this landmark against the blue hour of the early night. It was a bit windy and the glassy reflections of the columned structure were not possible, but students learned that longer exposures could still create smooth reflections of its golden colors in the foreground pool. Accents of star bursts from the building lights were achieved as students learned that smaller apertures would create this lovely effect. Matt and I also worked with students on white balance to maintain the more accurate colors of the Palace, while picking up other colors of the evening from both the foreground pool and foggy sky above. Next our team of Night Owls moved beneath the rotunda so students could try their hand at the many architectural features found here. High arches, patterned ceilings, and filagreed columns were all studied subjects providing leading lines, abstracts, and symmetry.

Back on our way through the streets of the city, we made a brief snack stop before going to the famous Lombard Street for some fun shots of car lights winding their way down this whimsical drive. Matt and I divided our group to allow for the opportunity to take turns shooting from two locations and achIeving very different images from both headlights and tail lights. Using 30 second exposures, our students began capturing some wonderful streams of light curving through their frames accenting the red bricks of the street while the city sparkled with the iconic Coit Tower and Bay Bridge topping off their compositions.

Happy with their new skills and achievements, the group traveled to the Embarcadero for some iconic images of the Bay Bridge with the old pier pilings in the foreground. As we know, nature has a mind of her own and ability to create mischief often changing our expectations on the scenes we wish to capture. In this instance, the new LED lights on the bridge were not working properly from the effects of weather, so the magical sweeping flow of lights were, shall we say, a bit weak. No worries as Matt and I helped our students with multiple minute exposures which could still capture streams of light and color through their cameras not readily seen with the naked eye. Lovely images with the bridge lights reflecting in the Pacific before us were still achieved and everyone came away with unique shots and a new appreciation of the world of night photography. Tired, but happy and eager to continue creating night magic at every opportunity, we drove our fabulous group of Night Owls back to their cars to say our farewells well after midnight.


On behalf of Jean, Matt and the Aperture Academy team, we thank you for a another great workshop!

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.)

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