Over the years I have read at least 50 different books on various aspects of photography and an equal number of magazine articles, blog posts and the like. However, I have never taken a photography class-not in high school, college or anytime thereafter. I am just a self-taught hobbiest. So, it was with an equal measure of excitement and nerves that I took a one-day photo seminar yesterday. One of my dearest friends had given it to me as a gift. The class spent the day at Balboa Park. The structure of the class was to “tell the story” of Balboa Park by taking a series of photos that would give somebody who had never been to the park a sense of what the park is like.
The weather was a bit challenging. The heat at times was almost unbearable; 90 degrees and 90% humidity. It was more like walking around in Florida than one of our typical “picture-perfect” days in San Diego-not that I’m complaining or anything! (wink)
There are several things I ended up taking away from the class:
-I know both more…and less…about photography than I thought I did. I’m conversant with all the buttons on my camera. Switching from aperture priority mode to full manual mode wasn’t as difficult as I always assumed it would be. However, I’m almost certain the time I spent fiddling with exposures caused me to miss some shots. To prevent that in the future I need to become more conversant with some of the general settings for various situations so I don’t have to concentrate on ISO, F-stops and shutter speed and instead can focus on composition, lines, light & color. Finally, I need to learn to ‘think outside the box’ in my compositions to bring greater interest to my photos and not fall-back on clichéd images.
-I’m naturally inclined to look for organic lines versus geometric, man-made lines. I find architectural compositions much more difficult than nature photographs. Close-up portrait shots come easily to me but placing somebody in a scene is much more challenging.
-We were instructed to make sure that each photo stand on its own but that it also “set the scene” for the next photo. We were encouraged to make sure we take overview shots and then tell the rest of the story by taking a lot of photos that showed the the details of the scene. I, um, neglected to take very many overview shots. I guess I like details! This might have something to do with my difficulty of taking photos of people within a scene.
-An accomplished photographer does not necessarily make for an accomplished teacher. The class instructor is an exceptional photographer. He was also very nice and sincere in his desire to share his talent with the class. But, he was kind of all over the place in his presentation. That being said he did help me think about different compositions and see the scene in a different way. The only thing I would have wanted more of is to have received feedback on the photos I ended up taking.
-I need to get out and about more often! When we are in Tahoe I’ve got my camera with me constantly and we go exploring almost every day. But then I get home and put the camera way; taking it out for the occasional family gathering but never actually taking many photos. As I was walking around Balboa Park I kept thinking, “I love this place! Why in the world don’t I come here more often?” There are SO many amazing places in San Diego; it is a tourist Mecca for goodness sake! I need to be more pro-active in taking advantage of that!
All in all I had a blast! I’m looking into some other classes that I might take in the next several months. And now, without further ado, here are some of the photos I took:
So, we started in a courtyard (no photo-ack, I've failed already!) I did get this shot of the fountain in the middle of the courtyard:
This next shot isn't the greatest and I almost missed it altogether because I was fiddling with the manual settings. At the beginning of the class I was feeling a little overwhemed and in over my head!
The instructor encouraged us to start consciously looking for geometric lines and make them work in our composition. I was thinking, "but I'm not a right-angle" kind of girl! Anyway here is my humble attempt at working with geometric lines, a shot of a fountain.
We moved out into the covered walkaways of the Prado. "Aim your cameras up and capture the arches in interesting ways," my instructor said. Okayyyy...my first attempts were so/so:
But then something sort of clicked. This one was better (I think?):
This one was my favorite of the "ceiling" shots:
So then we moved into a courtyard garden and tried our hand at some close up shots of flowers. I breathed a deep sigh of relief-THIS I knew how to do!
I know it might seem morbid but there is something about dead flowers and fallen leaves that I find poignant and compelling:
These pretty silver leaves were a sort of "cap" on the edges of the stairs leading into the garden:
Taking close-ups of the lillies I thought, "I know, these are the kind I shots I always take." I rationalized by telling myself, "Well, we are supposed to capture what we find beautiful, right?"
This next one is my favorite shot of the day. I didn't capture any people in a scene but I did manage to capture this darling turtle sun-bathing:
And then I spotted this sweet little hummingbird watching me watch the turtle:
So, I moved in closer and he didn't fly away:
We spent a lot of time taking photos of the park's statuary. I'm only going to share two of them because, well, I didn't really like how they turned out. The blank eyes kind of creeped me out.
After the class ended I headed over to Spanish Village. I wanted to practice what I had learned without the distraction of the other students. I don't know if it was just because I was on my own or because of all the wonderful colors in Spanish Village but I think these last photos are the ones that stand best, "each on their own." I also did a better job setting the scene with the first shots and then filling in the details with the close ups. Since that is the case, I'll quit "talking" and that the photos tell the story:
There was a fantastical sculptor garden tucked away in a corner:
During the class we had taken several photos of the exteriors of buildings. I wasn't really happy with any of them. For whatever reason the vertical lines throw me off when I'm trying to put together a pleasing composition. And, no matter what I try the buildings always end up looking crooked to me when I get them on the computer. The more I try to straighten them in Photoshop the more they seem to lean. But, I did manage to take these last two shots on the walk back to my car. These, I was happy with:
So, there you have it, the results of my very first photo class. I can't wait to take another one!