San Francisco & Marin Headlands Photography Workshop | October 10th, 2009

San Francisco/Marin Headlands Photography Workshop - October 10th, 2009

Busy is good. We like busy, but this past weekend, the city of San Francisco threw busy at our workshop like we'd never seen.

It was Fleet week in San Francisco, which meant every branch of the military was in town and an air show was going on along the water front...making traffic from that direction almost impossible.

In addition to Fleet Week, the PGA was also having a major event at a nearby golf course, which interfered with traffic in another direction.

The city was swarming with people, and to make it even better, Baker Beach, our first planned stop, was having something called, "The Naked Olympics."

We know this because on more than one occasion someone asked us if we were there for the event. We were there to begin our San Francisco Photography Workshop, but, I guess the large number of people with cameras and tripods would lead the casual observer to think we must be the Naked Olympics paparazzi or something.

Luckily, the fog wasn't an issue in the early afternoon and we were able to begin our workshop on Baker Beach, as we do normally. We were also fortunate that the Olympics hadn't begun yet, and we weren't surrounded by "athletes."

The first stop was a good spot for us to get to know the group a bit, and work with each of them on composition, as well as get to know the learning objectives they have for the day. It also allows us to familiarize ourselves with the equipment each student has brought for the day. As you can imagine, we see a lot of different cameras come through our workshops.

From the beach, we set off to Fort Point, which is always a highlight of the trip. The detail and architecture in this centuries old building is fantastic for all type of photography. The view of the bridge is also amazing, and with the air show and Blue Angels set to start right when we made sense to start our Fort Point experience from the roof and try to capture a few images of the planes as they flew over the bay.

Normally in the fort we work on tripods and long indoor exposures, but when the opportunity presented itself to try and capture a few shots of airplanes flying crazy-low to the city, we shifted our focus to low f-stop and high shutter speed hand held images.

Unfortunately, the fog was beginning to roll in and we were only able to see the Blue Angels make a couple of passes before they called it a day and flew out. One of the passes, however, was about 100 yards over the roof of the bridge...and THAT was awesome.

After the roof, we divided the group and worked on capturing some of the fort's interior, which is a great opportunity for working on balancing a composition with an interior that is highly symmetrical. Because of this, the light also provides a challenge and a great learning environment.

We have been so fortunate that all our groups so far have always been fantastic, and this one was no exception. They moved right through the interiors, taking turns, and coming away with some compositions that were original and different than things we'd seen on previous workshops. We finished with enough time to allow everyone to work on the bottom level of the fort and capture some detail shots in the war relics that line the alcoves.

The fort is a great place, but it's also FREEZING most of the time...and everyone always looks forward to warming up in Sausalito with some coffee and a snack. It also gives us a chance to get to know one another a bit more before we head out to the Marin Headlands for sunset shooting at the sea stacks on Rodeo Beach.

Unlike our last experience, the fog didn't burn off at sunset, and we had a moody sky. We're never put off by weather that isn't ideal. We use the days with grey skies to work on capturing images that will work in monochrome; Images that show great detail, movement, and contrast. Just because a condition doesn't live up to your expectations, doesn't mean you can't learn, have fun, and still come away with some outstanding imagery. The location was still a great spot to work with GND filters, ND filters, and Polarizing filters. When you sign up for our workshops, you will shoot and we will teach you all day.

While fog on the beach doesn't create the best and most colorful sunsets, fog around the Golden Gate Bridge is awesome! The color from the bridge lights reflecting in the fog over the city is outstanding for an image. The bridge stop is always the highlight of every workshop.

We trudged up the hill in the dark, and chose our spots along the edge of the cliff. The students got to work on long exposures and using high apertures to get the bridge lights to show stars. The instructors walked along the edge and made sure everyone got an image he/she was happy with.

Many people are familiar with this vantage point, and often have tried to photograph it in the past we really want to make sure everyone gets that image they can be proud of. Even people not signed up for the workshop.... At one point, Stephen went up to a figure in the darkness, who was photographing in vicinity of our group. " getting some good stuff!? Need any help?"

"Uh. I'm not with your group." It was really funny....but it goes to show you; we love what we do, and helping our people get the best shots is always a priority. Even if they're not in our class!

Thanks again to everyone for making this another great workshop. Looking forward to seeing your images, and working with you again!

Until next time,

Brian & Stephen, 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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