San Francisco Botanical Photography Workshop | May 7th, 2016

San Francisco Botanical Photography Workshop | May 7th, 2016

Aperture Academy Photography Workshop Students at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, CA

It's hard to believe that, in the middle of a bustling city like San Francisco, there is an oasis of calm and beauty unlike many other places on earth -- The San Francisco Botanical Garden. Covering an astounding 55 acres, the garden contains over 8,000 species of plants and is a perfect backdrop for our Aperture Academy workshop.

I had been watching the weather pretty closely, as rain was in the forecast, but it looked like we were going to catch a break. The skies were overcast, giving us nice, even lighting. So, on a recent Saturday morning, I met with five aspiring photographers eager to expand their knowledge about plant and flower photography, and specifically, Macro photography. The overnight rain had left behind plenty of water droplets to collect on the various leaves, flower petals, and grasses awaiting us. Conditions looked great.

We started the workshop off with some introductions to let everyone get acquainted. Then I went over some photography basics, including introducing the exposure triangle, and discussing how aperture (depth of field), shutter speed (motion blur) and ISO (noise) play together to create an image.

Next, I discussed the more creative aspects of photography, such as composition and how to use the Rule of Thirds and leading lines to create dynamic and visually pleasing shots. I had the students set their cameras with some initial settings to start, and with one more look at the sky, we were on our way!

The scenery in the Botanical Gardens is constantly changing, and always different, so every visit, it is exciting to discover what may be awaiting inside. And on this day, we were happily surprised to see a small grove of Calla lilies still in bloom. The lilies are in an area that is a bit dark, so after a quick reminder about shutter speed, I set my students off to start photographing. Callas are great subjects because they have a lot of texture and curves that provide great opportunities for challenging composition. I checked in with each student, to provide some tips on different angles to try to get a unique view.

After a few more minutes at the lilies, we left the beautiful callas, and made our way to the South Africa region of the garden. We saw lots of different textures and colors in the surrounding fauna, and it didn't take long for each student to find something that caught their eye. We had the softness in the new blooms, to the spiky tendrils of an Aloe Vera plant. So much to choose from! I worked with each student to provide a few critiques and offer suggestions for different compositions, and we concentrated on modifying depth of field to get gorgeous Bokeh in the backgrounds.

As the sky was starting to darken and we felt a few light rain drops, I offered some rain sleeves to keep our equipment dry, so we could keep moving through the garden. We enjoyed transitioning through the New Zealand flora to the mirror-like water in the Moon Viewing Garden, each region providing its own unique beauty and photographic challenges and experiences.

The rain had stayed away so far, but as we were coming to the end of our time together, I could see the horizon darkening with impending showers. So, because on Aperture Academy workshops we like to save the best for last, on our way back to the front gate, we stopped at a spectacular grove of red poppies in full bloom! The color was fantastic and we stopped to take full advantage of our last shots of the day, just as it started to sprinkle yet again.

Not wanting to push our luck with Mother Nature, we left the vivid red of the poppies and quickly made our way back to the gate. I took a few minutes to answer some final questions, thanked my students for braving the weather, and I wished them farewell, closing the book on another great Aperture Academy Workshop!!

Until next time,

Phil, 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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