Finally some progress on my Photography!

posted in: Photography | 12

I hesitate to write this post as I expect my son Gus will read it.

When I signed up for the photography course I didn’t own a camera. I still don’t. I aimed to learn to use a camera before buying one. Unlike most people on the course. And my husband. It surprises me when people spend quite a lot on swanky equipment but then don’t use it because they don’t know how to. So until I knew what all the knobs did, and had a chance to experiment, I wasn’t sure I would trade up from my very acceptable iPhone. I actually considered going on a course on how to use the iPhone camera better as it is surprisingly versatile and to a large extent does everything a camera does when you use the automatic settings.

Once I had signed up for the course I whatsapped the family and asked if anyone had a DSLR (ie a real) camera, that they could lend me, and Gus offered up his camera. I was very grateful.

It arrived like this, only in a plastic carrier bag.

Olympus camera
Gus’s camera

Hmm. You may be able to see the cracked viewfinder. You may be able to detect the generally grubby state. It lacked a lens cap or camera bag and the lens may have got a little damaged. The state of the camera was not too surprising (you should see his flat), but to be honest I didn’t care too much (beggars can’t be choosers).

Sadly I have returned the camera to him. I just couldn’t grapple with the focus. I found the size and shape of the camera to be cumbersome and the first six weeks of the course were very frustrating as I combined complete beginner naivety (I didn’t know how to focus), with a complicated camera, which also had some quirks I cannot sort out by using the brochure (down loaded from the internet). Also the act of getting the photographs I did take onto my computer so I could look at them, was irritatingly complex and I broke the little thingy with fine wires in that I had to plug into the computer.

Also everyone in the class has a different camera and our tutor (naturally) doesn’t know all about all of them, so flicking through the instruction booklet (poorly translated from Japanese), plus trial and error, has meant that my learning  has been hit and miss.

As I say, after six weeks, I was exasperated. I wasn’t able to do the half term “story” project – ten photographs that communicate something. My pictures were not coming out as expected and I was not handing in homework as I couldn’t achieve the correct outcomes. I suspected I was a bad workperson blaming her tools, and just like when I started knitting I had this feeling that I would never learn.

The syllabus so far

Nevertheless I listened intently to the lectures which covered

  • What is aperture?
  •  What is depth of field?
  • What are shutter speeds?
  • Alternative ways of calculating exposure
  • Reciprocity Law
  • Exposure shooting modes
  • Composition
  • Using Light
  • White balance

Unfortunately I missed the reciprocity law class due to having to be at work, but Nick explained it to me (in outline).  The class also includes a slide show, looking at the work of an important photographer, and by class members sharing their work which is then subject to critique. The classes have been very interesting. But I was like the kid without the equipment – it was mainly theoretical for me as I couldn’t successfully complete the homework tasks.

Homework tasks

  1. Pick subjects which are appropriate to a shallow or deep depth of field and take a picture to indicate this. Use Av or A mode for this
  2. Freeze and melt – shoot images which exploit different shutter speeds using Tv or S mode for this
  3. Half term project – ten photographs to tell a story (these were the dawn and dusk landscapes that didn’t really come out, that I shared last time).
  4. White balance shots indoors and outside; shoot the model using daylight, tungsten (incandescent) and fluorescent settings.

So now I have handed Gus his camera back (with a new bag, a spare battery and an extra memory card), and will be using Nick’s camera for the rest of the class. This way we can both learn about one camera, and help each other. By the end of the class if we both become very active photographers then maybe we will buy a second camera. But this seems to be something we can happily share. And I love it!

Better quality photographs already!

12 Responses

  1. The Demented Fairy

    I’ve always thought this sounds WAY too complicated! [But very interesting, rather like chemistry, the one science I never got to grips with]

  2. Jennifer Miller

    Oh that does like a challenge! My phone does a good-enough job for now, but I’ve always wanted to have (and know how to operate) a proper camera. Love the new and improved photograph.

  3. Joyce

    Actually, I think your approach was very smart! What type of camera does Nick have? Nikon, Canon?…(.you will soon learn to be particular with your lenses as well.) fun fun fun!
    Joyce from Sudbury ontario …still following your blog and loveing every post!

  4. Paula

    Oh, I feel your frustration! I almost couldn’t finish reading your post because my frustration level was rising with every one of your sentences. I have been in your position in classes any number of times–in cooking schools, in language classes, in how-to-create-a-blog classes, as well as sewing and serger classes. If there is a silver lining it’s probably that I was a better librarian in that I worked more doggedly for patrons to close the knowledge gap for them. I am so lucky that my sister (who takes the GOOD pictures on my blog) is a professional portrait photographer and I live a block away from her studio. What she’s had to learn to produce good pictures–first, on film, and then converting to digital–could fill volumes. It is NOT easy. You describe your frustration and coming up with workable solutions so elegantly. I salute you for sticking it out. It is invaluable to have learning partners–and to be a learning partner for others.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks so much for the encouragement Paula. Yes – language learning (I have tried so many times). During my life, so far, I have been surrounded by people who are competent photographers and to some extent this has made me complacent. So now I am on a mission….

  5. Kim

    I’m with Paula in my frustration for you. I appreciate that there are too many cameras out there for the teacher to be expert on them all – but as a teacher their job is to help and encourage and I’m feeling that may have been lacking for you.
    I hope you just enjoy experimenting and finding what works for you. After all, you have already discovered with sewing and knitting that the more you do something the better the results tend to become.

  6. Bonnie

    The nice thing about modern cameras is that you can operate proficiently in fully automatic mode fairly easily and then tackle each component (focus, depth of field, exposure — essentially the topics you covered in class) at your leisure. Too bad you had to start your journey using faulty equipment. Don’t give up. You have a good eye, which is the most important part.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks so much for the encouragement Bonnie. Composition, thankfully, is something I can relate to! And you are right that you can use automatic settings as you learn. Our teacher is very opposed to auto features as he says the camera invariably gets it wrong. Just to show us he asked us to take a black door and a white wall – both came out mid grey.

  7. Kerry

    Paula took the words out of my mouth! I had to have two goes at reading your post because I glazed over at the syllabus list. I think you have to have a certain type of brain (and the right equipment) to understand complicated camera equipment. I look forward to hearing about your results. I bet that your learning curve is steep now but will lessen over the next period of use, especially when you can ‘ahem’ break the rules you’ve just learned and be more creative.

    When I first (tried to) learn photography it was as a teenager with my father’s help and access to his many cameras. He was a very keen amateur photographer but I suspect he was more attracted to the learning process (mathematical brain) rather than the outcome. To achieve the best results in those days you needed to be able to process your own negatives into photos. He loved all of that. I was the opposite to my father, I was the creative one, looking for the end result and being confused and frustrated by apertures, shutter speed, and use of flash. All the ‘rules’. Fast forward to the age of digital cameras and phone cameras – it is so much easier to get better shots – yay!!

    • fabrickated

      Thanks Kerry. Yes – the manual made me glaze over big time. I too was surrounded by photographers – my Uncle was very geeky and did the developing etc, and cine films. My Dad had good equipment for the time, but photography was such a “special” and rare thing. My brother was a professional photographer and really very good, and my first husband was very keen, with a dark room (cupboard really) in our council flat.

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