A Photography Course

I was pleased to hear recently that an ex-work colleague had purchased a new Canon mirrorless camera and was taking a photography course. Not only is she getting in on the ground floor of future technology, but she’s taking the road less traveled when it seems that everyone is using a smartphone.

It also makes sense to learn about digital photography from the ground up, learning the theory as well as the practicum.

As for me, well I did take some university courses in physics so the optical part of photography was never foreign to me. As for the practical part, I learned a lot from my Uncle Howard. He was the master of the 35mm Kodak Signet manual rangefinder, and Kodachrome 64 color slide film.

Granted a lot of my and Uncle Howard’s experience doesn’t apply anymore, but he did teach me to make the most of available light, watch out where it’s coming from to avoid or compensate for backlit subjects. Also to be careful about image composition, get the right camera angle to avoid a telephone pole growing out of your subject’s head. And don’t be afraid to try a different way of doing things.

Lynn mentioned that her instructors encouraged her to switch off the camera’s auto settings and learn from scratch. I can vouch for this approach – after all my first serious camera was totally manual except for shutter speed. It made for some clunky photos at times, but that is how you learn.

But I have to confess that more often than not I let a modern camera make some of the optical decisions. A tiny travel camera does not have a lot of manual settings that I can fiddle with – especially aperture – so I just put it in Program mode. I do not turn off autofocus or optical stabilization since the camera sees better and compensates for my shaky hands. I just try to put it in the best location for success. Like a Bernini fountain in Rome.

This is a scanned print from a film photo taken in Brussels in 2002. I was smart enough to see the bright background and fill in with the camera flash. Uncle Howard wouldn’t have had this luxury, so he would probably have chosen a better camera angle.

Another scan – this one of a color slide from 1984. I remember having to get down in the mud to take this one. This is with my old Nikon mostly manual camera.

Uncle Howard used to say he learned photography from the “School of Hard Knocks.” I guess I was pretty much the same type of student.

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