San Francisco Photo Safari

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On Friday, I treated myself to a trip to the city for a photography workshop. Thanks to the wonders of Groupon, I got half-off on a “photo safari” through San Francisco Photo Safaris. They had a number of interesting-looking workshops, but due to my travel schedule, I chose to attend the daytime safari at Pier 39. Pier 39 is one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco, located on the waterfront on the edge of the Fisherman’s Wharf district.

For three hours, an instructor took me and two other women around the pier, giving us tips and helping us to work with the features available on our individual cameras. I brought along my trusty Canon Digital Rebel XT for the outing, but interestingly, the other two people brought point-and-shoot cameras. So I picked up a bunch of suggestions on different combinations of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, while the instructor told the other two how these things translated into the various auto settings (“night,” “portrait,” “sports,” “food,” “landscape,” “flowers,” etc.) on their cameras. It was actually pretty informative to listen to the latter, since I’ve never been really clear on how to get the effects I want on my Canon point-and-shoot.

Anyway, I picked up a few fun tricks, such as the art of getting blurred backgrounds behind moving vehicles (above) and generally acquired some good general information on how to handle my camera a bit more skillfully. Oddly enough, my favorite part of the session was the part where we focused on flowers. Pier 39 actually has a really interesting set of flora and fauna hanging about, though most people probably never take the time to appreciate them up close.

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This was a fun chance to experiment with distance and aperture. The shot above was my favorite of the flower-only photos that I took. A couple of tiny creatures also made guest appearances in a couple of my other photos, which gave them an added dimension:

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The bumblebee above was *gigantic* by the way—probably the size of three jelly beans squished together. I also learned that ladybugs love artichoke plants, since there were a ton of little red critters swarming around the ones in the Pier 39 flower beds. The one below was kind enough to pose for me:

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Anyway, not all of the material covered was totally revolutionary to me, but it was good to have someone walk me through things and critique my work. One of these days, I will get around to spending more time on my photography. Photography tends to be the way that I capture my travel experiences, and while that has been a really rewarding combination of interests, it is not the most productive environment for really developing one’s technique. When I’m traveling, I’m often in a rush or with people who don’t want to wait forever while I come up with an interesting composition or fiddle with my manual settings. So it was nice to have an opportunity like this, where it was truly about taking the time to get the best shot (and it was also fairly challenging). In general, I would like to be a bit more disciplined about using the manual settings, instead of relying on post-processing to get all of the effects I like (although I do adore Adobe Photoshop Lightroom). It may also be time for me to invest in a couple of other lenses beyond the 18-55mm stock lens that has been my companion for a while.

In any case, I am finally returning to Tokyo in a couple of days. I still have tons and tons of pictures from the Philippines and China to share but hopefully you’ll be seeing a little more of Japan in the weeks to come!

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