San Francisco/Marin Headlands Photography Workshop | May 11th, 2013

San Francisco/Marin Headlands Photography Workshop - May 11th, 2013

San Francisco Photography Workshop Students

I love San Francisco. It always changes, and when it changes it presents new and exciting challenges for photography. Saturday would be just such an event as from the beginning a large fog bank rolled into the city and covered the Golden Gate Bridge.

Jean and I, along with newest team member Paul Porter met our group of eager photographers on a windy Baker Beach for our typical introductory orientation meetings. We had a great variety of photographers with different experience levels, and goals. One thing people always want to do is learn how to shoot in a variety of different lighting…and we will certainly have that today!

The beach was windy and the bridge was fogged in so we set right to heading to Fort Point where we could retreat to the sheltered walls of this old Civil War era garrison. Funny, but sheltered does NOT mean warmer. The inside of Fort Point is routinely 15 degrees colder than it is OUTSIDE the fort only feet away. Strange the way it sucks in the weather.

We break the group up into 2 smaller factions and then Jean and Paul, and I show the class a few of our favorite spots inside. There's a lot of symmetry inside the fort whether it's a row of endless looking doorways, eerie brick archways, or a dimly lit room filled with old gun powder barrels. Each situation has different lighting, and thus requires different camera settings to get the best out of it.

A lot of what we teach for the locations we shoot is procedure, and finding a routine you can follow to make shooting easier. For me that routine always goes, F-stop/Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO if necessary, test shot, check histogram, adjust/filters, re-shoot. Having a routine will help keep you on track when you come to a location that might be overwhelming your senses. It forces you to slow down and follow protocol to get the settings correct to make maximum time for composing and enjoying.

Once we'd shown the class a little of our favorite spots inside the fort, then we turned them loose for an hour of self-adventure. There are so many little subtle areas within the fort that it's really fun for people to find their own spots, and then try to make some memorable images. Jean, Paul, and I wander around looking for the students and try to see what they've found, and help with any needed questions. I saw some really nice angles on some of the screens of the canons in the lower level.

Though windy and cold our class was resilient and really made the most of the time in the fort. The fog was thick and it made for some moody images of the bridge from the roof of the fort. We hoped that over the course of the next few hours the fog would flatten out a bit and give us some nice views of the towers from the higher ground of the Marin Headlands.

While we waited for the weather we took our customary lunch/dinner break in Sausalito, which was typically warm and sunny. The weather in San Francisco is so interesting! 1 mile away from the bridge it was like a whole different day.

After the class had warmed up and charged their internal batteries, we started to drive into the headlands in hopes the fog had lifted, but sadly it had come in with a vengeance, and was quickly making moves to overtake the entire city. Our next stop was not dependent on weather for great learning and nice imagery.

We made our way to Rodeo Beach, where we walked out on the soft sand to a lovely little pocket looking out to some dark sea stacks just off the shore. These stacks are great in that they look wonderful whether shot in color or in monochrome. We spread the group out on the sand, went over the settings, how to use the filters, and then turned them loos to start shooting while Jean, Paul and I walked around and helped them fine tune the shots.

I love shooting in the fog, but it was a challenge that took me some time to overcome. I showed some of the students how lowering your position and getting closer to the waves while selecting a slightly slower shutter of around ¼ of a second would yield much more dynamic and interesting images. It was fun to see the students getting down and shooting some of these shots, and then running when the waves got too close.

We also worked with the class on how to shoot in monochrome mode on their cameras. Though most people shoot in Raw, and it's possible to do more with the conversion process in post processing, shooting in the monochrome mode makes it easier for people to SEE what they are trying to achieve and get an idea of the way the tones of a monochrome image will look in the finished product.

When the light had faded, we made the walk through the sand back to the van, in hopes that the bridge had decided to make an appearance so we could do some night shooting….

Sadly the bridge had other ideas about being a cooperating model. Such is weather in San Francisco!

We took our group back to their cars, and they all got some great shots during the first portion of the day and we still were able to cover a wide variety of topics and help people get more familiar with their cameras, lighting, and composing.


On behalf of Brian, Jean and the Aperture Academy team, we thank you for a another great workshop!

P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.

NOTE: You can see more workshop photos below the comments here.


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