Ahh, summer. As a teenager I reveled in the idea of not having school and spending endless hours wrapped up in just having a good time. How I wish my parents would have found something more enriching than the average summer camp. Don't get me wrong, I loved summer camp as a kid. Interacting with others, having fun swimming and hiking and playing were of the utmost importance to me. But I never went to a camp that had a mission to enrich or teach me about something, other than social skills.
A couple years ago we had the great idea here at Aperture to try something like that out. Provide a summer camp experience that would not only help kids have an awesome summer experience, but also give them some skills in a creative outlet. The Photography Summer Camp was born from this idea. This year, I worked alongside fellow photographer Phil Nicholas to bring that mission to life, and to teach some kids about photography along the way.
Monday: Studio Lighting
The first day of our camp began with a whole day devoted to studio lighting. Phil and I brought a plethora of lighting gear for the kids to (literally) play around with.
The first task, of course, was to break the ice and get everyone a little more comfortable working with one another. After we introduced ourselves, and had fun trying to remember everyone's names, we introduced them to the equipment -- and started playing around.
We constructed two areas with which they would be shooting. One area was for portraits, where each student was tasked with finding an interesting looking photo of someone online, and then, using the lights, we would mimic the set up and take their portrait as close to the original as possible. The other area was for product photography, where they would use a different set of lights, and as a team, construct a setup with which to shoot a product of their choice. With the music turned up, we got to work, had a great time, and made some fantastic images! After we broke down both lighting set ups, we had each student load their images onto computers and spent the rest of the day learning how to use Lightroom to organize and process them.
Tuesday: San Francisco Zoo
In the morning, we spent a brief amount of time going over the studio images and using Lightroom before switching gears entirely and heading up to San Francisco to spend a day at the zoo. We taught our class how to properly set up their cameras for shooting wildlife, which is way different than what's used in the studio. After getting everyone more familiar with their cameras and using all the buttons and modes, we began our wildlife experience with a stop at some very energetic Patas monkeys, the fastest monkey in the world... and they liked to pop their heads out of the small trees in their enclosure.
With two vantage points to choose from, we taught our class how to pick the right background for a better photo, as well as to wait for the right moment before snapping off a series of images. From there, we moved on to the big cats, and stopped and grabbed some shots of a tiger, male lion, and snow leopard, showing our group how to effectively shoot through netting and fencing.
After a short break, we headed into the African area to see the gorillas, giraffes and zebras, before making one more stop at the tiger enclosure and grabbing some great shots of a male cat roaring. After the drive home, we downloaded our images onto the computer and began the lengthy process of culling and processing.
After we got organized for the day, we trekked back to San Francisco with the hopes of seeing the city from a couple awesome vantage points. First we headed up to Twin Peaks, where the fog ("Karl") was so thick we couldn't see anything, DOH! So we went deeper into the city and went straight for the Golden Gate Bridge. High on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific ocean, there lies a spot which frames the bridge perfectly, called Battery Godfrey. "Karl" made his appearance, but we fought through the fog and got some moody pictures of the old military installation and a couple of the bridge. Then, we headed further north, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and down to another old military fort, where the fog wasn't so bad.
On an old fishing pier, we spent some time grabbing pictures of the bridge and the fishermen, with the city as a backdrop. After lunch in Sausalito, we headed up to Slacker Hill, where the wind swept the fog up and over our heads and tried so hard to make the bridge visible.
Our last stop was Battery Spencer. With "Karl" losing his power, we were able to get some great shots of the bridge and the city in all their glory. Traffic on the way home was an utter nightmare, so our kids had to wait until the next day to find out what bounty awaited them deep within their memory cards.
After organizing and processing their images from the day before, we headed out west to Santa Cruz and the beach, for a fun day on the left coast. We started out shooting at Shark Tooth Cove, playing with longer shutter speeds to slow the wave action in the cove's sea cave. Then after lunch, we headed over to the Beach Boardwalk. Phil and I gave our class a mission to tell a story about the boardwalk, through pictures.
They learned how to discreetly photograph the people in their surroundings to make a visual story. We taught them how to be more observant and to wait for the right moment before taking pictures. We also just had fun people watching and finding interesting things to photograph. Using all the skills they learned from the previous days, but mostly using their attention to detail, we nabbed some really great street photos at the boardwalk.
Friday: Gallery Show
This was when the real work (and the pay-off) began... having shot hundreds of images from the past four days, it was up to each student to dive into their collection and find five examples of their work which they deemed worthy to display. We spent the morning helping them cull their selections and process their images using techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop. Once their final selections were made, we began printing them out, and finished just at the right time to take a break to get some lunch.
After lunch, we divided them into two teams, and released them on a photo scavenger hunt to put their skills and creativity to the test. After both teams were done shooting, while they were finalizing their selections to be judged, we had them individually mount their pictures. With the winning team getting first pick at mounting their collection on the wall, Phil and I made sure everything was lit properly and had them find all their favorite images from the past week and put them into a slideshow, which was displayed on their computers.
We turned down the lights, and as family and friends began to enter into the gallery, we played a slideshow of pictures we had taken of them during the week, including their own portraits! Then we raised the projector screen to reveal all their work, perfectly lit and ready for the delighted eyes of the parents. The show went great! We had an amazing variety of images across all the different types of photography we helped them learn. My only wish is that we had more time to spend with our new friends!
Thanks to all the students in the camp -- your determination and willingness to learn from us is the reason we keep doing this. You are all awesome, and we hope to see you again in the future!
Scott, Phil and the rest of the Aperture Academy team are extremely proud of you!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.