San Francisco is one of those cities that just inspires people. Droves of tourists come year round to take in the sights and sounds of this gem on the coast. At the center of it all, is the Golden Gate Bridge, its massive presence can be seen for miles around, and the views of the bridge from nearly any vantage point, are ripe for photography. The city is not lacking when it comes to beauty and the ability to explore its many treasures. October is a great time to come photograph the city, as the summer tourist season is dying down, the weather stabilizes and the fog recedes, and there is some great shooting to be had at sunset. Our Marin Headlands workshop explores some of the areas off the beaten path for the droves of tourists, and fellow instructor Joe Azure and I had the pleasure of touring the city with a wonderful group of folks on this amazing afternoon.
At our orientation in the less congested Sausalito, we had the chance to catch up with our group for the day, and chat with them about our adventure to come. Every orientation is an opportunity to get to know a little bit more about each students wants and needs pertaining to their individual journey in photography. It gives us a chance to find out exactly how to tailor the workshop to them so they can get the most possible out of our instruction. After we discussed the itinerary for our trip, we all boarded ApCab1 and headed across the bridge into the city.
Out first stop of the day was Fort Point. The fort was built in the 1850's and has a lot of cool areas to explore and use for photography. The old world charm of the architecture and rich history of the building make it a perfect setting for trying out many different perspectives and shots. While in the fort, Joe and I spilt our group in two and we each took our half on a little photographic tour of the grounds. We shot in the extremely dark and moody confines of the powder room, where hundreds of barrels of gunpowder used to be stored. We had to utilize long exposures in this room, which provided us with the unique ability to enter each others shots and move around, thereby looking like ghosts from a bygone era, wandering around the halls. We also shot in the officers quarters hallway, where the rooms and doors form a repeating pattern down a narrow hallway, which also looks pretty interesting when people move from room, and become blurry ghost like figures. The architecture of the brick arches with light flooding in from the courtyard, also provided us with some interesting shots. And finally on the roof of the fort, the entire Golden Gate Bridge is visible, as the fort sits directly underneath the south tower. The roof provides the best vantage points of the bridge with the cliffs of the Marin Headlands in the distance. The wind on this day was also pretty fierce, and there were countless sailboats moving in and out of our shots, giving us that little bit extra to make each shot more interesting.
After we let everyone loose and explore a bit, we met back at the van and headed up to my personal favorite spot; Battery Godfrey. The rehabilitation effort on the cliffside trail system has created the perfect vantage point that looks directly though the two towers of the Golden Gate, allowing them to line up perfectly. Its really a cool sight, and the only place in the city with this unique view. We made a quick stop here, before heading into Sausalito for an afternoon break to grab some dinner.
After dinner we headed out to Rodeo Beach, where we would eventually be for sunset. The weather was looking great, and Joe and I were trying to temper our excitement while keeping our fingers crossed. The surf out in the cove was pretty high, but nothing that deterred us from making the short walk out to the sea stacks at the end of the beach. As we arrived, there were already some local photographers out in the surf, presumably getting ready for a nice sunset. Good sign. As Joe and I explained how to shoot the scene, we took a quick break for a group shot before letting everyone settle into their spots and await the sunset. We gave instruction on using filters, namely graduated neutral density filters, which helped in darkening the bright sky enough to allow the dark foreground to be exposed nicely. As the sun began to set, it was evident that tonight we were going to get a huge treat. The horizon was clear of obstructions and allowed the sun to set and light up all the clouds overhead, making everything in view turn red, pink, and orange. Our students were clicking away at the gorgeous light that opened up in the sky. Joe and I even grabbed some shots, as prefect sunsets like this are rare! As the light kept going, I tried to encourage some folks to change their vantage point and get closer to the water, where the real interesting shots are to be had. Even at the risk of getting ones feet wet (which I did). A couple folks ventured down to the waters edge, but most were content to grab nice shots right where they were, the light was that good.
After shooting sunset colors for what seemed like an hour. We made our way back to the van and headed up to the cliffs, where we get one last shoot in before the concluding the workshop. The Golden Gate bridge is not visible from Rodeo Beach, so it only seems appropriate to end the workshop shooting the icon of California. As it wasn't quit nighttime yet, the bridge and city behind still had a little blueish glow up above them. All the colors in this scene blend perfectly together to make a great last photo spot. A slightly blueish sky, reddish bridge, orange glow from the city, and everything semi-reflecting in the bays waters. A perfect scene to end a perfect day. Awesome!
Until next time, Scott, Joe 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.
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