San Francisco; The Paris of the West, as it was once known, like Paris attracts millions of tourists per year with a multitude of daytime activities. At night though, the city shows its true colors, and its heart and soul. San Francisco is beautiful city at night, from the orange glow of the Golden Gate, all the way down to the cooler, bluer Bay Bridge, to the often quirky people you meet along the way, its a view of the city most take for granted or are already in their hotels putting to bed for the night.
Aperture Academy's Night Owls Workshop however, comes out to view some of the cities most iconic spots, and probably in a way those millions of tourists will never witness firsthand. Instructors Scott Donschikowski and Ellie Stone were on hand to provide that one-on-one interaction, and to take those 13 intrepid photographers to locations all around the City By the Bay.
Our first stop of the evening was at Baker Beach, our common meeting place for this workshop; we like to spend time here getting to know our students and learning about each of them as individuals, which helps us determine how best to help them in their quest to fill up their memory cards with beautiful images. But like most days in San Francisco, and like most summer days on the California Coast, the weather had swallowed the shoreline, and the bridge in a soupy, cloudy, milky think fog. However, noting that weather here can change on a dime, we chanced it and walked out to our perch, and to everyone's amazement, the weather cleared up within almost immediately and we had a perfect unspoiled sunset with bathed the bridge in magnificent golden light.
Hurry, hurry, everyone get back to the cars and re-park them so we can get to the Palace of Fine Arts with enough time photograph it in fading light. After a slight roundabout detour (thanks Scott) We eventually made it to the Palace with time to spare get some amazing shots of the Palace fully lit in orange light with the fading twilight of day and blue sky overhead. After the night started to creep further into our shots, we moved from outside the Palace, to under the Rotunda, to get some detail shots and some wide angle, extreme perspective, and abstract shots. To everyone's surprise and delight, as we were silently working away, the roving roller disco people showed up and took over the rotunda! This is an interesting San Francisco phenomena that we usually see on the Embarcadero; roller/inline skaters travel around certain parts of the city at night wearing LED's and other lights on their clothing, blaring music out of boom boxes and dancing on skates. Truly an amazing sight, we wished they would have stayed longer.
With that little surprise putting us slightly behind schedule, we made our way to the most famous section of Lombard Street, just south of Hyde, to get some long exposures of the cars as they pass down the windy road and provide for interesting light trails throughout the frame. Splitting into two groups, Ellie ans Scott took up positions atop and below the curved path and waited for the tourists to come down and provide the illumination we were looking for. After a short time, both groups switched spots and luckily for us Lombard was still a relatively popular attraction even at around midnight.
With time running out we headed down to Rincon Park on the Embarcadero to get shots of the Bay Bridge for our last of the night. The tide was extra low so the concrete pilings were extremely visible in our foreground which made it easy to frame our shots just so. We had one more surprise that night in addition to the sunset and the roller mob; they were filming a movie on the Embarcadero while we were shooting. Apparently this was the 2nd Unit, taking B-roll of late night traffic for use between cuts in the movie to provide a setting or ambiance. The kind of shots that you never think about but are essential for setting the scene. Anyway, ApCab might be making a cameo in an upcoming Judd Apatow movie so be on the lookout for that in the coming months!
Returning to Baker Beach, we dropped everyone off with tired bones and cameras, but happy faces and full CF cards. It was another epic night in The City, and she gave us some great surprises that our students will be sure to remember!
Until next time...Scott, Ellie 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.