San Francisco & Marin Headlands Photography Workshop | May 22nd, 2010

San Francisco & Marin Headlands Photography Workshop - May 22nd, 2010

San Francisco and Marin Headlands digital photography workshop, with stops at Rodea Beach, Baker Beach, Fort Point and shots of the historic Golden Gate Bridge at night.

San Francisco is a dynamic place in many ways, and the weather is one of its more interesting elements. You just never know what you're going to get, so when the group gathered at Baker Beach for the start of the workshop, we were became very excited at the weather that was unfolding. The clouds had pealed back and thinned out into those nice cotton ball-type clouds with many high streaking formations that provided great depth to the sky.

As orientation began, we did the customary introductions and got to know one another for about 10 minutes before embarking on our first shoot out on Baker Beach. The group assembled quickly with Stephen and Rachael working with everyone to get setup, find the right camera settings for the scene and provide some basics that everyone could use through out the day. Things like turning off image stabilization while using a tripod, adjusting ISO settings low for maximum image quality, and more.

I have to mention again just how great the sky was, and those students who had a polarizer were able to see the effect a polarizing filter provides at its maximum effect. With a twist of the filter, the clouds in the sky were given extra definition and the glare of the early afternoon sun was reduced, creating a color enhanced, crisp and attractive image. It had to be seen to be believed.

After working at Baker Beach for about an hour, everyone was feeling pretty good about a few new skills and so we packed up to move onto our next stop, Fort Point, to continue the learning, shooting and fun.

Once in Fort Point, we split into two groups to go explore some of our favorite areas the fort has to offer. This is one of those places you could easily spend an entire day, but given we had other stops to get to, we like to keep this stop to about two hours. You might think that's a long time, but it goes by so fast because there is just so much to explore and capture.

Stephen took his group to one of his favorite places, the powder room. This is a dimly lit room full of war era gun powder barrels that line the walls -- an excellent place to work on long exposures and low apertures for soft depth of field.

Rachael proceeded up to the second level to work with her group on the arched doorways that lead down what seem like endless hallways. Given the low lighting in those areas, which require longer exposures, other passing visitors at the fort appear ghost-like in the images, lending even more mystery to the captures. It also provides a great chance to use some of the black and white, sepia and other creative settings many cameras have to offer.

Once our time had come to an end at the fort, we were joined by Brian Rueb, who had just completed a workshop at the San Francisco Zoo. As Brian came and joined the group, Stephen had to return to the Aperture Academy Gallery because a full day of events was underway there as well.

With the fort shooting wrapped up, the group was ready to warm up and grab a bite to eat, so we made our way to Sausalito for lunch, where the second half of the day began. It's nice to take a break and warm up after what is usually a chilly experience exploring the fort. Over lunch we discussed the rest of the day's plan before setting off again.

The next spot we normally visit is Rodeo beach, but this time of year the sun sets later and later, so rather than spend too much time on the beach, Brian opted to try and take the group to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, where we could hopefully capture some dynamic images of the lighthouse with the great clouds that were lingering over the city.

Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed. So we took the opportunity to walk off our lunches, grab a group shot of the class, and since the area has such a nice view of the city, many of the students were able to capture a few shots of the Golden Gate and city with the Headlands in the distance, catching some of the warm evening light.

With our calories successfully burnt off, we went back to Rodeo. Safety is an issue with us, and we take every precaution. We went over the safety rules as a group before heading out on to the beach to where we like to set up for sunset. On this evening, the waves were too large to get to our usual location, so we set up shop right on the beach. Students were shown some of the nice rocks and logs they could use for foreground, and some even scaled the cliffs nearby to get a bird's eye view of the area.

Before long, the wind decided to misbehave and sand and sea-spray were attacking the group. This combined with the rapidly declining clouds on the horizon led instructor Brian Rueb to call off the shoot on the beach and move the group to the Golden Gate Bridge overlook, where he felt the sky and color for sunset would be more favorable.

The light over the bridge was looking great, and like a tripod toting Omaha beach attack, the van rolled in and the group was let out to storm the fort and get to the spot while the light was still great.

What an eager bunch...they didn't even make it to the Golden Gate view before setting up their tripods and trying to get a few shots of the amazing clouds and color going off over the Marin side! Rachael worked with the students who chose to photograph this scene, while Brian went to work with the students who chose to capture the bridge at sunset.

When the light had faded, the whole group assembled on the ledge and the instructors worked with the class on composition and settings to capture that magical shot of the Golden Gate and city as it lights up the bay. After seeing the views in the cameras, it seems the class got a lot of great images from this location and some even got comfortable enough to start playing with the white balance to see how it can change the mood of a dramatic landscape scene such as this.

What a full day! We covered so many locations, and covered a lot of information. While the conditions never allowed us to fully get into the benefits of the graduated filters, we did a lot with polarizing filters and got a lot of learning in with composition, shutter, and aperture. Thanks for the enthusiasm, everyone! Time to go practice!

Until next time,

Stephen, Brian, Rachael 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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