On a typically cold and foggy summer day at Baker Beach in San Francisco, Aperture Academy instructors Scott Davis and Jean Day greeted 13 equally cold, but enthusiastic students for a day of photo fun and learning. As is always our practice, Scott led off the group with introductions all around, welcoming back returning students and getting to know new faces to get a feel for each individual's skill level and particular needs to make the best use of their time while increasing their photographic knowledge and abilities.
With the Golden Gate Bridge covered in a blanket of fog, shooting from Baker Beach was not an option and instead the workshop began at Fort Point, just beneath the iconic structure.
Students left their vehicles for the comfort of the ApCab van and a short ride over to the old fort to begin working on making magic with their digital cameras. The architecture here is a great way to introduce students in using depth of field techniques for bringing everything in a scene into focus to centering in on smaller details of both architecture and machinery.
Repeating patterns of the brick archways found on the second level and the multiple doorways down a long hall of the Officer's Quarters was useful for creating abstract images as students learned creative use of depth of field, changes in white balance for ambient light, and the need of a tripod and shutter release cords or remotes to prevent camera shake for longer exposures in dim lighting.
From old canons and wagons to powder keg barrels, and the graceful curves of brick-lined stairwells, Scott and Jean made sure everyone had the opportunity to explore their creative abilities in isolating subject matter with shorter depth of field or taking in a wider view as many were inclined to brave the bitter cold winds from the top of the fort.
Shots of the steel and patterned arches beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding views of the bay granted opportunities to use wide angle lenses or longer focal lengths for more compressed and detailed compositions. Even on an overcast day, the polarizing filter made cutting glare off metal, or adding contrast to a foggy scene a useful tool.
After a good two hours of exploration and the fort closing, the group made their way back to the warmth of the van for a ride over to Sausalito and a welcomed dinner break. Happy with the warmer temperatures and sunny disposition of the North Bay, students and staff lingered over dinner at a sidewalk cafe discussing accomplishments and skills gleaned from such a short time in the field.
Scott and Jean answered additional questions and offered advice to help students in retaining information learned and prepare them for the balance of the early evening. After warming up and refueling over some great Italian food and conversation, it was time to head over to Rodeo Beach at Fort Cronkite in the Marin Headlands.
The sun shined over the coming fog and after a short hike down the beach the group gathered near the iconic sea stacks of Rodeo. Here the students learned more on composition of landscape photography finding interesting rocks in the foreground to help lead the eye off to the sea stacks.
Emphasis was made on learning to use polarizing filters to cut glare off the water, and graduated neutral density filters to help bring into balance a brighter sky with a darker foreground. The use of long shutter speeds for creating the effect of silky smooth and misty water allowed students more control of their cameras in creating a more ethereal and intriguing look.
With the dark upon them and a thick fog enshrouding the Bay Area, it was time to return this happy and eager group of students to their vehicles with memory cards filled and a day of photographic fun and exploration behind them.
As always, Scott and Jean and the entire Aperture Academy team thank you for spending your day with us!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.