"Go Outside," they said. "Meet some new people," they said. "Grab your camera, it will be fun", they said. You know what?? They were right!! Aperture Academy photography workshops are always fun, and this latest one was no exception.
On this particular Saturday morning, our location was the gorgeous UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, in Santa Cruz, Ca. The Arboretum is a 135 acre research and teaching facility maintaining over 300 plant families, some of which are rare and threatened, from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and California. There is also plenty of wildlife in the form of zooming hummingbirds, beautiful butterflies, fluffy rabbits, darting lizards, even the occasional deer or two! This rich diversity offers a unique opportunity for study, research, and of course, photography.
I met with 6 excited photographers who were ready to go outside, meet some new people, and of course, take some great pictures. We started with brief introductions to get better acquainted. Then I covered a few of the basic principles of photography that we would be practicing during our workshop. I reviewed the technical aspects of the Exposure Triangle and how Aperture (Depth of Field), Shutter Speed (Motion Blur), and ISO (Noise) work together to create images. Next I covered some of the more creative aspects of photography and compositional basics like Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, and awareness of your backgrounds and textures.
We were having a bit of a heat wave in the Bay Area, so I wanted to get started as soon as possible to take advantage of the cooler temperatures while we had them, so off we went to discover what was waiting for us in the Arboretum.
We started with the fragrant plants in the Aroma garden, then moved to the varied cacti in the Succulent garden. My students spread out through the area in search of the perfect subjects. I made my way around to everyone answering questions, reviewing images, and helping people get comfortable with their cameras. We kept moving through the gardens, stopping whenever we saw something interesting. I discussed how the conditions changes when we go from the bright sun to the shadow of the trees and how to make adjustments. We talked about how to be aware of backgrounds to eliminate distractions in our images.
Each area of the arboretum offered opportunities for creative subjects. Some were the colorful flowers, some were the repetitive patterns in the shrubbery, but everyone was able to find something interesting to work with. Throughout our day, we heard the hummingbirds zooming around above our heads, but as hard as we tried, it was really tough to get a good picture of them. They move so fast! We also saw a few butterflies, and some huge bumblebees collecting pollen on the poppy flowers.
The Arboretum also hosts a few art installations and statues. We stopped at one of these for our group photo with our newest friend "Joe". Joe was a great model, he didn't blink or move at all. We got a great group photo and left Joe to tend to his business, while we continued on our way, through the California native section on to the South African region with its wild and alien-like Protea plants. I took a moment to show my students how adding a few droplets of water can add some nice character and create an interesting composition.
Throughout the morning, I checked with each of my students to help them fine-tune compositions, explore different camera settings, reinforce some of the concepts we were learning about, and most importantly, make sure everyone was having fun!! I challenged everyone to really look at the subject matter, try to see the different angles, move positions to create more interesting compositions, and appreciate the colors, textures, and the setting as a whole. It was awesome to see everyone getting up close and personal with the plants they saw. No one was afraid of getting a little dirty!!
Time really does fly when you're having fun, and it was soon approaching the end of our time. We picked a spot to set up for our final group photo, which is always fun! I answered a few final questions, gave a few more bits of information and encouraged everyone to continue practicing what they had learned today. Then I said my final farewells, and closed the book on another very successful Aperture Academy Workshop!
Until next time,
DeAnna 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.