The city of San Francisco is is considered my many to be the crown jewel of the West Coast. Nestled, albeit uncomfortably, among the rolling hills and sheer cliffs of California's pristine coastline it lies as a beacon of the Western United States. Its skyline is as iconic as New York and Chicago. The infrastructure here is amazing, bridges, forts, financial institutions, places of worship and governance, all glisten in the western sun, but they come alive at night.
Which is what keeps The Aperture Academy coming back again and again to this awesome spectacle of light and architecture. On an all too familiar chilly, windy night The Aperture Academy's Scott Davis and Scott Donschikowski led an intrepid group of budding night photographers on our San Francisco Night Owls Workshop. A tour of the city by the bay, in an often overlooked aspect of photography.
As usual we meet at Baker Beach for our round of introductions and explanations of the nights activities. Then its a modest jaunt down the beachhead to catch a glimpse of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in the fading western light. Here we discuss the basics of photography to warm up everybody for the nights shooting. There's nothing like a quick refresher on shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and composition to get those photographic creative juices flowing. With the wind up and the temperatures down, lucky for us, the usual gang of nudists were not among the tourists and photographers on this evening. Allowing us concentrate on capturing the bridge with the setting sunset. As the sun passed below the horizon, the group packed it all up, re-parked their cars and crammed into our Rent-a-van, because our ApCab was guiding another group of photographers in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge (take care of her Brian!).
We then made our way to another iconic spot in the city, The Palace of Fine Arts. The Corinthian architecture has stood for nearly a century in one shape or another and provided us with a truly massive subject to capture. Staring off across the lagoon, we lined up and went over the basics of proper night photography, as the sun and all available light quickly disappeared. Tripods, remote triggers, wide angle lenses: Check. Then moving around amongst the grand pillars, colonnade and rotunda, we looked for interesting angles, symmetry and composition. We gathered in under the rotunda for a quick group shot and packed it all up again and headed to one of Americas most crooked and most photographed streets.
On the corner of Lombard and Hyde looking down the hill, you will find a 40 degree slope built with eight switchbacks. Every other available inch of real estate is someones house. A perfect place for night photographers, because of the hordes of tourists who come from miles around to traverse the slope with their cars. We setup at two different locations to capture the perfect angle of the street with the car lights illuminated and weaving through our shots like a wisp through the air. Its easy to spend hours here, capturing wave after wave of tourists, residents and taxis, endlessly illuminating our canvasses from all directions into the ever deepening night. As a matter of fact, our gung-ho group got carried away too, and with time fading away on our workshop, we speedily headed to the Embarcadero for our last shots of the night.
We started with the Golden Gate, its only fitting that we end with the Bay Bridge. In stark contrast to the Golden Gate's glowing reddish hue, the Bay Bridge at night is bathed in a cool bluish bath of light from the Port of Oakland in the East. Setting up on the pier on the Embarcadero, the entire western half of the Bay Bridge was radiantly waiting for us photograph it as our night came to an end. We snapped a few images of the old dock pilings with the span as our backdrop, and then with our compact flash cards full, we quietly ambled back to our cars in search of some sleep after an eventful night in the city by the bay.
Until next time...Scott, the other 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.