Let's face it, the world around is a little chaotic right now, and it can be difficult to turn down the noise. But I have a secret! What if I told you that I knew of a place that offered sanctuary from all of that (at least for a little while)? What if I also told you that this place was right in the middle of a huge bustling city!? It's true!
The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a wonderfully beautiful and expansive area comprising 55 acres and containing over 8,000 different species of plants. It is a great place for friends to gather, families to spend quality time, and for photographers to practice and learn new skills!
That's exactly what happened on a recent Saturday morning when I met six enthusiastic photographers for our latest Aperture Academy workshop. They all came ready to learn about plant and flower photography, with specific attention paid to macro photography. We also had a seventh attendee for our workshop, the famous San Francisco fog, which provided us with nice even lighting conditions for our adventure.
My students all arrived perfectly on time, and I started the workshop off with some introductions so I could get to know everyone a little better. I outlined the plan for the day, and what they could expect from me, and then I went over some of the technical aspects of photography basics. I introduced the exposure triangle, and discussed how aperture (depth of field), shutter speed (motion blur), and ISO (noise) play together to create your image.
After we'd gone over those first things, I enjoyed discussing the more creative aspects of photography, such as composition, and how to use the Rule of Thirds and leading lines to create dynamic images. In addition, I talked about finding pleasing angles for our subjects, and to be aware of the backgrounds in our images.
I also showed the students some of the tools I carry with me in my bag, including a small 5-in-1 reflector, to help enhance light conditions, and a viewing loupe that I use to make it easier to see the images on the back of my camera. After covering the basics, I did a final check in for any questions, and then we were on our way!
One of the most awesome things about the Garden is that the scenery is always changing, and it is so much fun to discover what is waiting for us inside the gates.
We entered through the main gate and made our way past the Great Meadow and through the Temperate Asia area into the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest, which was our first photo stop of the day.
Because of the fog, we had even, diffused lighting, but it was a little dark, so we had to adjust our camera settings to make the shutter speed fast enough to stop the motion of the slight breeze in the air. We spent some time in the cloud forest area to let my students get comfortable with their equipment and the environmental conditions. I checked with each of them to answer questions, offer critiques, and general information and help.
After everyone was relatively comfortable with their cameras and the lighting conditions, we continued our journey through the Garden, on the hunt for anything that caught our eye.
We ended up in the Garden of Perennials, where there was a wide variety of flowers in bloom. I took a moment to show my students that sometimes the most interesting part of a plant or leaf is one that is not readily seen. I spied some beautiful green ivy leaves along the ground, and showed everyone that the underside of the leaf has a gorgeous red color lining the veins, arguably the more beautiful side of the leaf. (So, take note, sometimes you need to look past the obvious or "boring." You might find something spectacular waiting to be discovered!)
The area also hosts several honey bees, and everyone had a great time trying to catch one in a photo.
We continued through the Garden, making our way into the Chile and South America sections and on through to Australia and New Zealand. As we came back to the Wildfowl Pond, we were greeted by a Pirate and a Mermaid!
It turns out that the Garden was hosting a family scavenger hunt. Parents and children are given lists of things (and people) to find throughout the park. What fun!
We continued on, and crossed the bridge of the pond, and were delighted to see several turtles peeking their heads out of the water as we passed by.
It was quickly approaching the end of our time together at the Garden, so we made our way to the last stop of the day, the Garden of Fragrance. In this area, there are several colors of poppies, and tons of bees and butterflies. At this point, I know we had covered a lot of information, but I challenged my students to look around the area to find something other than the obvious. There was a lot to choose from, but after only moments of looking, everyone was off and clicking away!
I made my way to each student to offer support and any final tips and critiques. I was happy to see that everyone had been able to capture some really great images, and was really enjoying their time at the Garden.
All too soon it was time to end our adventure. As we left the vivid red of the poppies and made our way back to the gate, we chatted about our images, and I answered a few more questions.
Once we'd arrived back where we started, I thanked my students for sharing part of their day with me, and for the opportunity to share what I love with them all. I was happy to send them on their way with their new skills and full memory cards!
Until next time,
DeAnna, and the entire 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.
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