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.


11 Responses to “First Photography Class–Maybe Last?”

  1. Looks like its paying off!!! 🙂 e

  2. Learning the camera settings does take a while. I’m still learning. The more mistakes I make the more the camera makes sense. It’s easier learning by trial and error than trying to get my head around formulas.
    I like the pumpkin scene – funny lil’ headstones.
    I hated, hated, hated math when I was a kid. But it didn’t help that I had unsympathetic math teachers.

    • Candice says:

      I think you’re right–I need to make more mistakes (and recognize them as mistakes) and learn from them. And it’ll be a lifelong process, like writing and any other creative endeavor.

      I was trying to capture the “bloody” handwriting in the old school bus–needed a little processing and didn’t quite make it, but I like that picture. Those tombstones are funny.

      As for math, please don’t mention the word! I had to marry a mathematician. Sheesh!

  3. You had me laughing from the title. I’m so so glad you don’t entirely stay away from what my computer can see. Love this project.

    • Candice says:

      Second class was last night. I asked for a tripod trespassers could use and behold! he brought in a monopod (used in action photography). Gonna get me one!

      I am having fun…last class this Saturday. Then I’ll have to apply what I learn for a change instead of instantly forgetting it.

  4. jama says:

    It takes practice practice practice. You’re getting there. And doesn’t Frank look snazzy posing by that car!

    • Candice says:

      That was our instructor’s first lesson: Practice! I’m used to whipping out our little S95. The Nikon is more obvious and intentional. But time I learned it!

      I LOVE that car and drool over it every time we go by. Frank belongs in that car. Me, too, with cat-eye sunglasses and a headscarf!

  5. Andrea Greenwood says:

    Candice, you sound great — as fabulous as you would look in that car with the dark cat’s eye glasses and trailing headscarf! Your post is witty and charming but it is also, neurologically speaking, interesting. I’m intrigued. And really happy for you!!

    • Candice says:

      I was just thinking about you, Andrea. I’m doing better, thanks. I’m more eager to understand why I take the photos I do than how to set shutter speed, but I realize I need some technical know-how. I owe you an email!

      • Andrea Greenwood says:

        I love your photos — I have no technical understanding but they are just wonderful visual stories. To me they are your prayers (I feel the way you do about Eat, Pray, Love but I couldn’t even read it). They tell me what you are seeing beyond or in the midst of the material world.

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