First Photography Class–Maybe Last?

Posted October 7th, 2013 by Candice


For my husband’s upcoming Big Birthday I bought him a Nikon DSLR (a step up from my Nikon), two guide books, a bag, and enrolled him in the same photography class I’m taking.  When I told my sister, she said, “You got him what you wanted him to have, didn’t you?”  Well, yes.  I thought it would be fun to take pictures together.  More important, my husband already knows old-fashioned SLR photography.   Time I took advantage of his expertise.

Our first class was last Monday evening.  The instructor said that would be “the worst”–all technical information.  He wasn’t kidding.  I took notes like mad, even with his slide show and slide show handout.  My husband asked intelligent questions and never uncapped his pen.  He’d had his camera about 45 minutes and still knew more than I did.  By the end of three hours, I was sleepy, hungry, desperate for a bathroom, and dumber than ever. 


For homework, we had to learn our cameras and take a bunch of photos at various settings.  We didn’t unzip a camera bag until Saturday.   We drove to Westmoreland County for some pretty scenery.  I took pictures of this wonderful car (restored inside and out and all yours for $55,000) in bright sun.  When I realized they were coming out dark, my husband suggested we apply what we’d learned. 

Me:  I didn’t learn anything except to bring snacks and water and get up when I need to.

Him:  (fiddling with my camera)  We don’t know any of the settings on these cameras.  It’s a matter of finding the right answers to the questions. 

Me:  I don’t know the questions!  I was hoping the teacher would tell us the answers instead of all that ISO and aperture and shutter speed stuff.

Him:  It’s a simple equation.  See?  [He scribbled on our homework sheet.]  X plus Y is less than Z.  If you change X, you have to change Y. 

Two memories slapped me upside the head.  The first is in sixth grade and Mrs. King is leaning over my desk for the 4127th time, trying to pound long division in my wooden head.  “See?” she said.   I laid my cheek on the textbook and said, “No.”  She showed me again and the eensiest beam of light eked through.  I had it!  But as soon as she left, the light blinked out.  I could only do long division if Mrs. King was standing over me.

The second memory was much later, age 49, when I was learning to ride for the first time.  All the other students at the barn (all under the age of seven, I was the only one who drove to the lessons), learned to post to the trot by the second class.  I didn’t learn in eight weeks.  Then I took private lessons at a different barn (to save face) and still couldn’t learn to post.  My riding instructor said that it would come.   Six months later, I figured out the rhythm.  I felt like I’d split the atom.

Now it’s photography–a combination of learning to post and long division.   In the visitor’s center at Westmoreland State Park, we sat down with our cameras, something we should have done before we started taking pictures.   My husband muttered and jotted formulas while I watched an eagle fly down the river.   Finally we were ready.

We went outside and pointed our cameras at some trees.  

Me:  We can’t take the exact same pictures!

Him:  Okay.  Go find your own scenery.

The park, which should have been filled with photo ops, was boring as an empty dinner plate.   I set various f stops and shutter speeds on the most uninspired subjects.   My pictures came out like this:


And this:


The next day I broke bad.  I took renegade pictures (but I did use aperture so some information leaked into my spongy brain).  And felt better.


I’ve decided to learn exposure and depth of field so I can make those nice blurred backgrounds without cheating with the clumsy version on Elements.  I’ll apply my Nikon lessons to my sweet little Canon that also has manual controls.  These cameras are so smart–why not let them do the heavy lifting?

Our next lesson is tomorrow.  I’m taking snacks, water, and will write myself a hall pass.   The instructor told us he’s putting together a certificate program in photography:  this class, an advanced photography class, Lightroom, studio portraits, and more. 

You know what?  I’m signing up for it.  It’ll be more like posting, which I eventually did learn, and less like long division, which never sunk in and didn’t matter.  I can’t think of one single instance in fifty years where I’ve needed long division.