When you think of California, you usually think of glorious sunsets bathing the landscape in a golden light, blue skies and rolling hills spanning the area around San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge; but, San Francisco has not gotten the name City of Fog for nothing, and usually during the summer, the beauty of the city hides behind a thick layer of fog.
Every once in a while though, the thick, gray layer blanket opens up to reveal patches of blue sky and casts a wonderful light on the area. This was the case for the Aperture Academy San Francisco and Marin Headlands workshop this past weekend.
The group of eager photographers gathered with our lead instructors Stephen Oachs and Brian Rueb at Baker Beach, where the fun part of the day was about to begin.
Shooting time! The weather was perfect to utilize polarizers and gradual neutral density filters to balance exposures along the banks of Baker Beach. The students were introduced to the basics of compositional leading lines and depth of field, all in front of the iconic "Gate into the Bay" backdrop, the Golden Gate Bridge.
After a short ride to Fort Point, the old brick walls and long hallways called for some attention and we got away with some great angles on the old architecture of the Fort. Whether it was the powder room, where the students played around with leading lines and a shallow depth of field; the deep and symmetrical office quarters, which span half of the Fort, or the panoramic view over the Bay from the top, where students tried their hands on panoramic images and different angles on the Golden Gate Bridge, it was a fun and educational excursion to wrap up the afternoon.
Next stop: Sausalito for a well deserved break, some delicious food and drinks to refuel the batteries and cure sore trigger fingers. Accompanied by laughter and stories about future trips to the Desert Southwest and Southeast Asia, it was time to leave for our sunset spot of the day. While the fog moving into the Bay may not be the best sign indicating a great sunset, the group was willing to shoot whatever Mother Nature had to offer and that's just the way we like it. No weather is too bad for photography; it's all in the creativeness and capability to interpret the scenes in front of you... and we had our students work hard on that.
After a short hike to Rodeo Beach, the lowest tide of the year greeted us (probably the lowest tide; we didn't actually look that one up but we have never seen it THAT low before). As we arrived at the sea stacks and the group spread out over the beach to find their personal composition, and even though the elusive sunset never did happen, the patterns and textures in the sand, as well as the incoming tides, provided some great opportunities to let creativity flow. Students were able to get creative with black and white conversions and even some long exposures that live from the ever changing play of the waves on the sandy shoreline.
The last spot of the day proved to be a real challenge for the kind of photography you usually do from the vista high above the Golden Gate Bridge that overlooks the city of San Francisco and the eastern side of the Bay. Working on longer exposures to bring some interest into the shots and illuminate the city lights properly is hard enough, but when winds feel like they have the power to blow you and your tripod right off the cliff, it makes photography certainly, well, let's call it... interesting.
Despite the plethora of different lighting conditions and challenging exposures and compositions, we all came away with some great imagery to share with friends and family; and most important of all, a boatload of knowledge and new skills that will help improve their photography beyond the workshop.
From Stephen, Brian and David, thank you for coming out of the fog, ahem, I mean, coming out to the City of Bay! We hope you had as much fun as we did!
See you next time!
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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