Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Mushrooms In My Back Yard

Ira bought me a camera for Christmas, two years ago.  It's a Canon Rebel T1i, and much too intimidating for a person like me to just take out of the box and start using it.  I'm not good with new gadgets.

In between customers, I figured out how to put it together and took a few pictures of the store.  The activity scared me for some reason.  I put the camera on a bookshelf, and it sat there until about a month ago.

I signed up for an adult education class, called, Introduction To Digital Photography.  The day the first class was to begin, I stood at the counter and worked with the buttons of the camera to remember how to turn it on and snap a picture.  It was the least I should know when I showed up to class that night.

When I got there, the room was packed with people holding their fancy cameras like a bunch of clueless big shots.  None of us had any idea how our cameras worked.

The first two classes, I sat in the back and spoke to absolutely no one, not even the teacher.  I listened to everything he had to say, and took copious notes.  This was the first time I'd heard any photography terms, like, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, depth of field, and such.  It's the same as learning a new language.  I wrote it all down with every intention to look all these things up on You Tube.

You Tube is a wonderful thing.  Everything I needed to learn was easily found there, including how to work all the buttons and knobs, on my very camera.

We were given our first homework assignment, to be done during Easter vacation.  We were told stand at a highway and take pictures of speeding cars.  We were to change the aperture and shutter speeds, or what showed up in my head, as turning the dials one notch, after each shot.  Once we've downloaded our photos, we could see how they've turned out.  Then, we were to analyze them, by taking notes of which modes the camera was on, when the shots were taken.  This way, we could get a good idea as to what our cameras can and cannot do.

I stood at the edge of my parking lot, and snapped pictures of cars going by, turning the knobs on my camera at every possible combination until I knew that I'd have enough material to bring back to class.

Man On A Motorcycle
Truck With No Wheels
Car With No Wheels
Speeding Truck

Then, there was the task of learning how to download the software that came with the camera, onto my Mac.  I'm not even good at using my new Mac, but I managed it.  From there, I had to figure out how to import the photos from my camera, to the new software.

After all of that, I had to learn how to find the photos that I'd want to print out.  Finally, I got the printer to work well enough to print out the 8 1/2 x 11 photos of my favorite shots, to show the class.

On the backs of each photo, I wrote out the combination I used to get each affect.  To get the information needed for that, I had to locate each photo on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.  It took a while to figure out how to get that info.  I couldn't find these details on the software.  I'm sure it's there's a way to find it, and maybe I'll learn how to do it some day.

I packed up my photos, and rushed out of the store.  Driving to class, I was very proud of what I'd figured out on my own.  There was so much new information in my head, that nothing was really clear to me about what I'd done.  But, it was my own invented way of learning how to start doing all of this stuff.

Walking down the hallway, and through the classroom door, I heard the teacher saying, "You know, you paid a lot of money for this class.  I can stand up here and give you verbal instruction until I'm blue in the face.  But, unless you pick up your cameras and try them out, I can't really teach you anything."  As I rushed to my desk at the back of the room, the looks on their faces told me that once again, I was the only person in the class that bothered to do my homework, just like the writing class.

We spent the next hour and a half discussing lighting, and different ways of using flashes, according to the affects the photographer would be hoping for.  The teacher looked at the clock on the wall, and said that we had thirty minutes left, and he had nothing else to say.  He asked us if anyone in the room had any questions, which no one did.

There was a woman sitting next to me with the same camera as mine.  I showed her the back of one of my photos, explaining to her how I got the effect, and showed her how to adjust the dials to do it.

The teacher came over to my desk, picked up my photos, and told the class that we were going to examine my work.  We spent the rest of the time in class, watching him hold up my photos and reading the backs of them, explaining what I did to get certain effects.  He said, "What are these little pictures you drew, here?  A tulip?  A running man?"  I said, "I don't even know the names of the symbols on the dial, yet, so I just drew them, so when I learn everything later, I'll know what I did."

Pet Country

When he held up the photo of the store, I said, "My camera was a Christmas present.  That's the first picture I've ever taken with it."  He said, "Class, what's wrong with this picture?"  A few of them said, "The snow is blue."  He went into an elaborate explanation as to how the reflection of the snow under the blue sky causes the blue affect, and how I could've done it differently to prevent that mistake.

Bee In Daffodil
Bee In Flight
Daffodils With Morning Dew Under Blue Sky

He held up the photos of daffodils -- one with a bee sitting inside it, and the other, of a bee flying around some daffodils.  The class really liked those, and asked me what mode my camera was on when I caught the bees so well.  While I was proudly explaining it, the teacher held up one of them and said, "By the way, does anyone have any comments about the composition?"  I said, "I wasn't going for composition!  I'm just trying to figure out how my camera works!  That's why I'm here."  He nodded his head, and agreed that the composition was not good.

Forsythia At The Edge Of My Driveway

As he kept going through my photos, telling the class what was wrong with each shot, and how I could've done it right, I felt that old familiar feeling come over me.  I watched the faces of the other students, who brought nothing.  They were taking what was mine, and looking for something wrong with it.  I thought to myself, 'There must be something in the water these people are drinking!  Once again, I'm the only person who's willing to do my homework, and show it to the class, and this is what I have to go through whenever I try to learn something!'  I wondered if anyone could tell how annoyed I was.

It was time to leave, and the teacher told everyone to do the homework that they were supposed to do during Easter, and bring it to the next class.  One of the women said, "Well, if you're going to pick on me the way you just did to her, I'm not bringing any of my pictures here!"

He put his hand on his heart, and said, "Well, it's just that I've been doing this for forty years, and I can tell an amateur right away.  For what she did with the limited skills she has, she did very well.  I'm going to help her become much better."


  1. I love the photos of the vehicles with no wheels!!! ;D

    Awesome writing (and photography) Kate!


  2. What a great and beautifully written story! So very real. I really picked up the earnestness of the narrator in how she goes about learning. It made me want to learn in such a self-motivated way. And then the clash of the experience in the classroom, that teacher being such a self-congratulating jerk. Fantastic writing!!!

  3. You're candor is delightful. I wish I was there to give you a hug. I part own a photography business and I've never taken a photo. Yes indeed there is a story buried in there. Quite frankly, I thought "speeding Truck" was an eye catching piece. Let him help you improve. It's a beautiful art form. To hell with the wimps.

  4. Love the mushroom shot! Great depth of field. I just bought a new camera -- my first digital SLR -- last month. You can see some of my pics here: http://www.dianewordsmith.com/ireland-travel-blog.html