The south has a certain charm to it. There’s an immense amount of beauty and charm to the area, and you can't beat the Southern hospitality! Whether it’s the people, the food, the unique architecture, or the green and lush beauty of the region, people come in flocks to see it and to photograph some of the natural and man-made beauty this area offers. This time of year the azaleas are in full bloom, the weather is mild and enjoyable, and it’s the ideal time of the year to visit.
Our group of photographers traveled from various parts of the country to be with us in Charleston, South Carolina, and experience some of its charms. We met Thursday night for a brief orientation to make sure everyone was up to speed on what to bring with them in the morning.
Day 1 started bright and early. Our group met outside the hotel and we set off for the beautiful Folly Beach area. This location has all the wonderful parts of a beach town you could ask for! A long pier into the sea, white sand, surfers, and more! The pier was under some serious renovations, so we moved underneath to photograph the repetition of the poles and the movement of water as the first bit of warm light splashed across the waves. We had a good amount of surfers in the waves to photograph as well which made for a fun subject to shoot for action shots, or to practice more complex techniques such as panning. The group enjoyed everything about the area, except the bugs... which we planned for!
Our next stop was to head down the beach to shoot the ruins of an old wooden pier. This was a great way to use some ND filters, and work on longer exposures. It’s one of those locations that a lot of photographers don’t yet know about, so we had the whole area to ourselves!
Our last stop of the morning was the famous Angel Oak Tree. This tree is the oldest and largest in the south, and it’s strikingly beautiful! Photographing this famous tree can be a little tricky because everyone wants to see it, but we set up tripods and took 20-30 images, and then via the magic of photoshop, we’re able to remove all the people so it looks like we had the place all to ourselves. Even though we certainly didn’t.
The afternoon found us at Cypress Gardens, a wonderful place with bald cypress swamps, alligators, and more! It’s like a little well-maintained slice of swamplands that is actually easy to photograph, and if you’re paying close attention and don’t step on an alligator, it’s a marvelous place to see some of these prehistoric reptiles! We were all astounded by how little attention the alligators actually paid us, so that allowed us plenty of time to snap some cool shots!
After a delicious BBQ meal, we set off for Lake Moultrie where some lone cypress trees sit out in the water. Though it unexpectedly poured rain during our shoot and then was slightly overcast, we managed to find a little break, and were rewarded with an intense pink glow on the horizon mixed with the cool purple-blue hues of the sky and water, all the makings for a striking sunset! A beautiful way to end our first day together.
The next morning we all slept in a little and went to the Magnolia Gardens. Once a historical plantation this area is now known more for its lovely gardens, bridges, and many-colored azaleas. The giant oaks, moss, and pink flowers make for some striking photos. The area is huge, and everyone had plenty of time to explore the area. We were pleased to also find birds, alligators, peaceful ponds with bridges that looked like a Monet painting...and so much more! It was a really nice experience.
That evening it was off to Botany Bay. This area has a beach, called “The boneyard” for good reason. Many old trees have sat in these tidal waters for years, having been uprooted by hurricanes over time. These mysterious-looking trees look like old skeletons laying on the beach. But a handful of these eerie trees still stand out on the beach absorbing nature's wrath. They make for amazing photos though, so we trudged out to the best sets of trees, set up, and worked on getting some long exposures with a crazy set of storm clouds looming overhead. It was forecasted to rain, but luckily for us it never did and we had a full evening of shooting. Another long, but successful day in the books.
On day three we returned to Botany Bay. It was definitely worth a second trip and the forecast said the storm would break at sunrise, so we went down to give it another whirl. The storm mostly blew out in the night, but it was still nice to get back out there, smell the ocean air, and get some more images.
The tide comes in high and mighty here, so it gives you a little heads up when it’s time to move on.
We finished up our morning by shooting the well-guarded Tomotley plantation and its Forest Gump famous tree tunnel driveway. "Run Forrest Run!" It was a very cool location! We then traveled to the Sheldon church to photograph an old brick relic, and pump some water from a hundred-year-old pump. We also had some pretty awesome pastries and coffee at a local cider maker's shop. We all needed some caffeine!
In the evening we explored downtown Charleston to experience the local flavors, the French Quarter, the famous Pineapple Fountain, and a walk down Rainbow Row. Downtown Charleston is quaint and fun, with lots of great sites, good food, and tons of southern hospitality! After our bellies were full, we guided our group to the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. This bridge is one of those iconic images that you need to snap if you’re coming to Charleston. We set up with a nice vantage point of the bridge and did some long exposure twilight images. After everyone captured all their images, we all agreed we were pretty tired from our adventures, so we called it a night!
On our final morning together we drove to Shem Creek, a wetlands area with access to the ocean. This is where all the shrimp and fishing boats leave out for their day of fishing. It’s really beautiful and the ½ mile boardwalk really makes for a nice composition. There are also always droves of birds coming in and out of the area to see and photograph. And our group did just that! The storms during the week had blown out, so we had nice soft morning light to work with which lights up the boats rather nicely.
The last portion of our workshop was spent post-processing all the awesome images our group had captured. Learning how to remove people, going over some other tips and tricks, as well as critiquing images, and working on some nice cropping options for certain images. It’s always fun for us to see what our students are capturing, and this group came away with some great stuff. They made us proud!
What a fun weekend. It was nice to have the whole group back in one vehicle for this workshop as we explored the region and saw all that it has to offer. Let’s do it again soon in another city!
Until Next Time,
Brian, Monique, 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.