Night Owls Photography Workshop

(This post originally appeared on Exposure, back in 2015)

For my last birthday, Kat gave me a voucher for a photography class with Aperture Academy. They have an amazing selection of classes, but after some deliberation I opted for the Night Owl’s workshop, both because I wanted to learn more about shooting at night, and because it was based in San Francisco. It took me a few months to actually sign up for the workshop, but it finally happened last weekend.

Golden Gate Bridge

Our group of 13 students (plus 2 instructors) met in Sausalito, and after some brief introductions headed to the vista points along Hawk Hill’s Conzelman Road. These are probably the most well known view points to see the Golden Gate Bridge with the city in the background. During the day, it gets very crowded with tourists and backed up cars, but when we arrived shortly after sunset no one was there except for one lonely couple and a few empty bottles of whiskey :)

We set up our tripods and started shooting. Here’s my favorite shot from that location:


Palace of Fine Arts

Next we headed into San Francisco proper and set up at the Palace of Fine Arts, in the Presidio / Marina neighborhood. This gorgeous Beaux Arts building from the 1915 Panama-Pacific exhibition is illuminated at night, which allowed for some awesome mirroring effects with the lake in front of it.

Lombard Street

Next stop: Lombard Street, the most famous crooked street in the world. This is very close to my neighborhood, so I had been to it many times before, and had taken many pictures of it, but never at night. We set up in two different locations and learned how to time the shots so that the cars coming through would create the desired light swirl effect. Topped off with some some great views of Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and the Bay Bridge, this was probably my favorite location of the course.


Bay Bridge

Last stop: The Embarcadero, near Mission and Howard Streets, with unrivaled views of the Bay Bridge. There are some old pillars of rock in the water, presumably the remnants of some kind of pier. They add an interesting counter point to the sparkling glitter and light show of the Bay Bridge. Here’s my favorite shot from that location.

At this point, it was already past 11 pm, so we packed up our gear and headed back home. All in all, a very enjoyable workshop. If you’re an aspiring photographer and are interested in improving your night photography skills, I’d definitely recommend it. I learned a lot, and ended up with some awesome shots.