Bearing the titles of Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman from Professional Photographers of America, David and Ally McKay embody the keen vision and aesthetic prowess that separated good photographers from great ones. They share these skills during classes at McKay Photography Academy, where they train eyes, fingers, and imaginations to work in tandem as a snapshooting dream machine. Their classes help aspiring photographers progress from neophytes to seasoned pros; the Beginning Digital Photography course teaches students to harness the intricacies of their instruments, and the Pro Academy offers inside tips on how to successfully snap wedding portraits, pose recent grads, or tease out candid emotions. When not busy instructing the next generation of shutterbugs, David and Ally also devise photo safaris, which send small teams of photographers to capture shots of famed landmarks including San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge; the Lincoln Memorial of Washington, DC; or Yosemite's 60-foot statue of Yogi Bear.
Chowhound Cooking Classes is a one-woman culinary school run out of the home of Denise Ward, a worldly chef who lived throughout Europe and Asia, learning the regional dishes and blending them with her own Greek culinary roots. In the 3.5-hour Small Plates Santa Cruz class, students prepare a series of plates combining seasonal ingredients from local Monterey Bay purveyors. Amid the sears and jeers, Denise provides chefs with samples of Santa Cruz Mountains, and also permits them to enjoy a BYO bottle imported from their own homes or gas-station marts. Past hands-on classes have prepped plates including roasted halibut with walnut crust and tomato-pepper compote, flourless chocolate cake, and other tasty edibles that can be enjoyed as appetizers or portioned as main courses.
When owner Nicole Duke took her first Bikram yoga class, she was a competitive long-distance runner looking for something to complement her already active lifestyle. What she found went beyond just the physical; she noted an increased sense of calm and decreased desire to punch in ceiling tiles after completing the 26 intentionally sequenced poses of the 90-minute Bikram class. Once she graduated from teacher training, she set about opening Bikram Yoga Aptos—a studio equipped with eco-friendly antibacterial flooring, private showers, and a high-quality air purification and filtration system. These facilities get put to good use—seven days a week—as a cadre of teachers lead all levels of students through the classes conducted in a room heated to 105 degrees.
When students arrive for class at Aptos Yoga, they’ll see standard mats and blocks, but they’ll also find props that might surprise them: blankets. That’s because the instructors adhere strictly to a therapeutic brand of yoga where blankets support posing pupils. The staff’s chief aim is to release deep tensions in the body's spinal muscles, and for total body relaxation along with mental clarity.
In the heart of Aptos Village, Joy of Movement Pilates & Gyrotonic Studio fosters physical and emotional health through personal Pilates sessions, mat classes, and machine-based workouts. As one of 100 Pilates Method Alliance Gold-Certified Pilates instructors worldwide, owner Jennifer Balboni leads the studio's team to utilize their unique backgrounds in dance, massage therapy, and yoga to motivate students as they execute total-body toning moves. Reformer classes feature a low 3:1 student-to-teacher ratio to ensure each reformer receives the attention they need. In addition to strengthening mind and body in tandem, the green-certified studio supports sustainable living with green practices such as recycling, efficient lighting, and water conservation.
• For $59, you get one month of adult fitness classes (up to 10 classes, a $140 value). This option is redeemable at the Downtown, Live Oak, or Westside locations or at the Cabrillo Fitness Club in Aptos. Zumba classes are not valid Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at Live Oak. • For $49, you get one month of kids' and teen fitness classes (up to 10 classes, a $140 value). This option is redeemable only at the Westside and Live Oak locations.