My Excellent Adventure at Night School Photography Class
By Matt Forbes
8 Dec 2007
My friend and fellow picture taker, Jaimee, he with the one eye lost to a wayward BB pellet some years ago, convinced me to attend an advanced photography class at North Georgia College. He had attended the beginner classes and earned star student honors. Our first class was on a Tuesday night at 6:00PM, and was to last until 8:00PM, and each Tuesday night after that for six weeks. The class was made up of five bored housewives, a hippy chick that drove a VW bus, an older couple, and Jaimee and me. The instructor was Trevor, a younger guy about twenty-five. All of the students had been in the beginner class together, so when I first walked in I definetly felt the stares, kind of like the feeling you get standing at the line of urinals at the airport. Now I don't profess to be a genius when it comes to photography, but I do know who Nan Goldin is, and I do know the difference between RAW and JPG.
Trevor started off the class by kindly telling me since I hadn't attended the beginners class, he would be glad to go over the fundamentals after class in order to get me caught up. And then he proceeded to the first lesson, explaining the effects of shutter speed. Whoa, what did I miss from the beginners class, the importance of removing the lens cap? Did you know that if you hand hold your camera and shoot at 1/15th of a second your picture could be blurry? Who knew! So after an hour in the class room, we were instructed to go outside, it was a nice Spring evening, and we were to shoot for twenty minutes and then review the results off of our camera preview screens. This kind of left out Hippy Chick since she was using a Canon AE film camera. Within a few minutes there were photographers gathered around the blooming dogwoods and Day Lillies. Jaimee was working his majic on a rotted tree stump. I just sat on a bench taking it all in. The older couple were firing away at a stop sign, both armed with Canon 5Ds and L glass, both with their cameras set on the big A. I will now refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. Big Hat and No Cattle.
We had to bring five or so pictures in for the next class for review and critique. As we left, I made a bet with Jaimee on the over under for cat and dog pictures, which I lost because Hippy Chick had a parakeet, and Jaimee said any animal other than a dog or cat didn't count. Blown hightlights, poor focus, bad composition, red eye, we had it all. I brought in a photo of a Japanese Maple leaf I took one rainy morning and had juiced it up using HDR with Photomatix Pro. Big Hat asked me if I had put the water droplets on the leaf, and I told him I had not. Trevor jumped in to say that using a water mist on plants and stuff can enhance the image. Big Hat got a perplexed look on his face and then the following discussion took place:
Big Hat- "Do you mean mist or spray the plant?"
Trevor -"I don't know what you mean."
Big Hat -"What I mean is, should you use a fine mist like application or
a heavier spray type application."
Trevor -"Uh, hmm, uh."
Big Hat-"You know like should you say use a watering can or
something like a Windex bottle?'
Trevor -"You mean like put Windex on the plant?"
Big Hat-"No god dammit, put water in the Windex bottle and then
spray the fucking plant."
Trevor -"Yeah, that would work great."
Big Hat -"What would, using the Windex method or the water can
Trevor -" Dude, you are like freaking me out with this, why don't you
experiment with both methods and see which one you like
Big Hat-"Hey great idea. I guess that's why we call you Teacher."
At this point if I had been wearing a belt I would have hung myself. Next we dove right in to white balance. I knew this was going to be a mind blower for my fellow classmates. Trevor could have been speaking in toungues with a monkey on his head and would have garnered the same look from the class. Poor Trevor, he knew it, but was having a tough time trying to explain it. I think he was still rattled from the Windex issue. Finally, he asks me to try to explain what white balance is, so I say sure, and then I reach in my camera bag and pull out my ExpoDisc and hold it up. After a few moments of silence, one of the bored housewives asks me if you look through that thing I'm holding up to determine white balance, to which I reply you are 18% correct. Nobody got that one.
Well we now come to the final class, and it's time to show off our new found skills. Hippy Chick's parakeet pictures now seem more focused and composed. Jaimee is into old delapitated stuff, and his photo of a
rusted out dishwasher blows everbody away. One lady that was allways bringing in pictures of her church just went all crazy with inspiration and brought in pictures of her neighbor's church. A lady that was trying to get into concert photography brought in some great shots of a local band playing on stage. Trevor asked her what she did different this go around since her shots were noticably better. She said she was too stoned to remember. Mrs. No Cattle showed a picture she had taken of an ostrich. She was very proud of the fact that the way a haystack was positioned in the background made it look like the ostrich was wearing a straw hat. Big Hat had a picture of a sapling stuck in a mound of dirt. One of the gals that was still pissed that Big Hat was cursing during the Windex incident told him it sucked and looked like nothing more than a tree in dirt, to which Big Hat replied, what better place for a tree than in the dirt? I think he had a good point. I decided to bring in my picture that you can see in the Teeny Tiny theme. I told my classmates that my hobby was building small models out of toothpicks and this particular model took me six years to complete. Big Hat said he would never have the patience to do that kind of thing.
So, what did I learn in Advanced Photography Class at North Georgia College? I learned that people that like photography are allways trying to get better, that it really doesn't matter what kind of camera or lens you have. That the best way to learn is by actually trying things for yourself, and no matter how much you think you know, somebody else knows more, and most people will share their knowledge if you ask them. Am I a better photographer having attended the class? Yes, I really think I am. And so are the other photographers that attended.