Night photography in San Francisco is always a fun outing. The problem is that sometimes the technical aspects of the photography can be daunting and prevent people from being able to enjoy the images they come away with. That's where we come in. Thirteen eager photographers joined Jean Day and me for a fun evening of learning the ropes of night photography in and around the San Francisco bay area.
We met in Sausalito, and after everyone got a warm coffee to drink on the road we loaded up for our first stop in the Marin Headlands where we set up to shoot the fading light over the Golden Gate Bridge. Jean and I helped the students to get their settings down as far as aperture, shutter speed, and white balance for the proper exposure…and everyone watched as the light of the day faded, and the lights of the city came on to welcome us into our night photography.
After leaving the hills of the Marin Headlands we ventured cross the mighty Golden Gate Bridge and into the heart of San Francisco making our first stop at the lovely Place of Fine Arts. This piece of architecture is one of my favorites in the entire city. The building was used originally for the world fair but stuck around to house concerts and events. The pond they built in the front of the structure offers some brilliant color and reflections and that's where we start shooting.
We help the students dial in the compositions as well as get the routine down for the settings. Our white balances will be much cooler here to combat the warmth of the artificial lights, and give us a more normal color. We were fortunate enough to have some low cloud cover in the vicinity and that helped to provide texture and color in the sky and give us some really nice exposures in the sky.
When our class had conquered the pond it was time to head underneath the dome and shoot some of the patterns and symmetry this area offered. While shooting we were invaded by a group of disco roller skaters, which was fun to see, and also to try and capture the blur of their lights as the neon lights that draped their person swished and swooshed throughout the area.
Lombard Street was the next stop on our magical night tour…and it never disappoints. Jean and I break the group up into 2 smaller pods and then we work with each to capture cars travelling down the road from the front and back. Each requires a slightly different technique and we help the class to learn the settings and “WHY” behind the shots. This spot is always interesting, and the class comes away with some really beautiful images of the headlights and taillights streaking their way down the winding road.
Our final stop for the night is the iconic vista of the Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero. This location is a must shoot for any night photographer and we get the class out on the best stretch of sidewalk with the old pier pilings in the foreground and the bridge in the back. By this point the class is pretty dialed in with the settings aspect and only need minor suggestions and adjustments to get those perfect images. I saw so many nice shots on the backs of the cameras…and everyone was so into the shooting that we didn't realize it was after 1am! Time flies when you're having fun!
We packed up our gear and made the drive back to Sausalito. Everyone was tired for certain but with all the nice images on their cameras they'd be busy for the days to come processing their work and reliving the fun we had via their computer screen!
Thanks for a fun night!
Brian, Jean 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. (More photos below the comments.)