San Francisco Night Owls Photography Workshop | May 10th, 2013

San Francisco Night Owls Photography Workshop - May 10th, 2013

Night Owls Night Photography Workshop Students with Aperture Academy

Nothing beats a night shoot. For photographers, with the invention of the DSLR, and the consistent improvement of their capabilities, night photography has become more fun and yielded higher quality results than ever before. With high quality cameras becoming affordable, everyone now has the opportunity to get out and try some night photography. That’s what we love to do at the Aperture Academy, take out photographers and teach them the ins and outs of night shooting!

Jean, Danielle, and I met a group of really enthusiastic photographers in the baker beach parking lot, and after I did a little orientation with them it was time to lad up and start shooting. Our first stop of the night was a little overlook on the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The wind was really howling, and this spot, though still windy, was at least a little sheltered, and the group was able to set up without fear their gear would be swept away.

While we wait for the sun to drop and the night to fall upon us, we work with the class to use zoom lenses to get some nice close up shots of the last bit of the suns’ warmth of the red steel of the Golden Gate. This first spot, though not typical night photography allows Jean and I to work with the students on their manual settings, and get them more comfortable with using longer exposures before we really get into the night portion of the evening.

The second part of our shoot takes us to the lovely Palace of Fine Arts. I love seeing the mix of orange and warm light on the structure and that deep blue of the twilight. It’s such a perfect mix of complementary colors, that photos of this time are really great. Jean and I set up the class around the reflection pool so we can shoot the building and some of the lovely color it reflects into the water. There still was a slight breeze as we moved inland, and that made the reflection more of a painterly looking mix of gold and yellow….which was beautiful. Both Jean and I saw some amazing shots on the backs of those cameras!

After we shot along the front of the building we moved underneath the dome to shoot some of the symmetry and architecture. Here we stress the importance of checking the shutter speed as the lighting underneath the dome is far more even than outside where the darkening sky creates higher contrast with the brightly lit columns.

The next stop was the wonderful twists and turns of Lombard Street. Once we arrive on scene we break the class into two smaller factions and then set up shooting both UP the curvy street in one location and DOWN the street in another. Both spots require different techniques photographically and I work with my group on some slightly odd techniques to get the best shots, while Jean and Danielle work with their group using something a little different. Either way the end results are great to behold on the backs of the cameras. This spot, probably more than any always yields a lot of “OOOH’s” and “Ahhh’s”

My technique involves holding a sleeve or hat in front of the lens for sometimes up to 10 seconds, and I KNOW people always think that the shot is not going to work…they look at me funny when I tell them to do it, but when it comes out they always enjoy the odd procedure that much more.

Third stop of the night is a brief one for sustenance at a little North Beach Deli. Night photography can zap your personal energy as well as that of your battery, it’s always good to get a cup of coffee to warm up before the final stop!

The final stop is amazing too. We shoot down to the Embarcadero to grab photos of the Bay Bridge and its newly installed LED light show! This is the culmination of all our learning for the night. We give brief reminders on settings, but for the most part the class is starting to get the hang of it. High aperture, long shutter = happy photos!

We help guide with a little bit of compositional feedback, and the class gets some really great images. A high fog has rolled in creating a little added warmth to the scene, that looks nice in the images Jean and I see on the camera backs. This image is so iconic, and many people have seen similar shots on the gallery walls, and online…and to finally have their own version of the shot and the knowledge of how to do it is a lot of fun for the class.

Night photography takes a toll on the gear, and by the end of the night batteries are dying and memory cards are filling. It’s been quite an adventure!


On behalf of Brian, Jean 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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