Fog, fog, fog! You know summer in San Francisco is just around the corner when fog as thick as pea soup decides to make an appearance. It has been stated that Mark Twain once famously claimed that the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. Whether or not Mr. Twain actually made this statement remains debated but certainly the content of the statement hold credence as a chilly fog descended upon our group of eager and well bundled photographers.
So it was on a foggy Sunday a full group met instructors Scott Davis and Jean Day on Baker Beach. Following a brief orientation so instructors could get an idea where every student was with their experience, as well as find out what it was they wanted to focus on (no pun intended) learning during the day. Typically, we start shooting at Baker Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge as a prime subject however on this day, no bridge was visible due the fog. No worries though as our next stop at the Fort matters not be it a foggy, rainy, or sunny day.
Fort Point, usually our second stop of the day but today our first due to the fog was a treat for everyone. The old archways, and many twists and turns within the fort, provide countless opportunities for photography. Once inside, our group split into two, with Team Scott and Team Jean setting out to work different, more intimate parts of the fort, working on composition and shutter speed. The smaller groups also ensured we wouldn't be too crowded in the more confined interiors, and everyone had the opportunity to work closer with the instructors on getting what they wanted out of their time.
We spent time with each student making sure they understood the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. Several students had questions regarding how to compose a scene, or approach a scene and scout out a composition. Scott and Jean, while very similar in philosophy, each have unique and varied ways of explaining their approach to photography, and this dynamic is what we feel makes our classes so special. Regardless of style, both instructors work to explain concepts in ways that made sense to each individual participant. Our primary goal is to learn...so when the better light at the end of the day is upon us, our participants are ready to tackle the challenge with the new tips and skills they've worked the day on.
There are a few areas the instructors use to work with the students that are personal favorites of theirs, but we also love to turn the group loose for a bit and really let them explore and practice the techniques discussed. The top of the fort, on this day gusting with wind, is a great place to explore looking for unique macro shots, or just taking in a spectacular front row view of the Golden Gate Bridge or what we could see of it.
While the class was off seeking their own perspectives of the fort, the instructors wandered about helping individual students with technical questions, or showing them some special little nooks of the fort they may have overlooked. Sunday's weather was chilly to be sure, and after two hours, many were ready for a little break to get some food or drink to warm them up and give them the energy boost to finish the day.
Sausalito is a charming little town on the end of the headlands, and a perfect spot to spend an hour while we wait for the sun to drop a bit more in the sky. This group was eager as any we've had, and many students ate quickly so they could wander out to explore the marina and take more images. Our instructors love it when they get a group that is so excited to learn, and is out gathering images even when they can be relaxing.
Once the class was rested, warm, and full, we loaded back into the van and set off for Rodeo Beach located at the Marin Headlands. The tides on Saturday combined with the super strong winds were a bit higher than usual but our team was ready for the challenge. Looking like a crack military attack team, we stormed the beach and set up our tripods and cameras, taking advantage of a little cove filled with unique rock spires that popped up out of the raging seas. Combined with the fog, wind and big waves, there certainly was no shortage of dramatic moments. The tide was coming in quick so following some quick shots but in the essence of safety, we moved to higher ground and got some great images..
We spent a lot of time on the beach working with filters. Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters were passed out to let students practice a bit with balancing an exposure using the filters to hold back the brighter sky area while adding more exposure to the black sandy foreground. We also covered how the polarizing filters can be used to creatively enhance a photo.
The time on the beach was great although very challenging with the high winds, foggy and soggy conditions and chilled temps, but our group was a tough bunch and die hard optimists. Often tough conditions bring out the best in people definitely fell into this category. People were laughing and joking and dreaming of hot Irish coffees. What a great group!
When the group was finally reassembled back at the van, the marine layer had turned had reached its full force enshrouding the whole headlands, Golden Gate, and parts of San Francisco. Challenged but not defeated, we made our way back to our waiting vehicles. It had been a chilly foggy day in the field but a very productive one, and all had a lot of new information to process. We went back to the meeting point and dropped off the group, bidding adieu.
All said, it was a great day in the field. Students were given a ton of helpful hints and information that will hopefully benefit them in all their future photographic forays. It was a great privilege to spend the day with such a fun group and we look forward to seeing you all again.
On behalf of Scott and Jean and the rest of the Aperture Academy crew, thanks so much for joining us. Until next time....
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.