There are just some things you can’t learn from a book.
Leading into the holidays, Karin and I simultaneously noticed a Groupon promotion for an Alberta-based photography school called FotoScool (www.fotoscool.ca) where they were offering their introductory “basic” workshop for about one-third of their list value. I told her. She told me. And…
Well, guess what I got for Christmas.
When I attended last Saturday I found myself sitting at a table with three other guys who’s wives had also bought them the same gift for Christmas. It was like a club, or something.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into that early weekend morning, driving over with my music blasting on the car stereo, half-way round the city to the facility where the class was being held. It was listed as a beginner class. It could have been anything, I thought, and here I am posing as a noob and taking an intro class.
But there is always something to be learned. And some things — no matter how many books and websites you read — that just never click until someone is standing there walking you through it.
The basic class wasn’t so much a photography course as it was an ‘introduction to light’ course. We talked very little about composition. We talked very little about subject matter. We talked very little about photographs in general. What we did discuss was light, and the very important ways that digital cameras understand light. We learned not the basics of what most people think about when they think of photography, but instead we learned how to forget about what the camera’s little brain is telling us about the light, and instead how to crank the tools to manual mode and use those tools like a real photographer might.
I’m not horribly embarrassed to admit that (while I’ve experimented with full manual mode and a few mediocre attempts at proper light metering) I’ve usually fallen back on the auto metering modes and focused on composition. But the instructors, one of whom who has a freelance resume that more resembles the magazine rack at the grocery store than mine ever will, effectively — in the span of a six hour practical course — kicked that crutch to the curb. (Though I’ll still use my point-and-shoot, of course, when the moment strikes!)
It clicked. All my reading, all my experimenting — everything. And it took an afternoon in a ‘beginner’ course before all the pieces lined up in the bright sunlight. I was standing in a greenhouse photographing a well-lit display of rainbow-coloured flower pots, and it — right there — suddenly all made sense. Epiphany struck.
On the drive home I rolled back through my mind on every mediocre photograph I ever took, realized that my awesome composition couldn’t have ever made up for crappy lighting — and crappy light metering — and had one of those giddy moments trying explain my glee to Karin back home.
Needless to say, I’ve already registered for the intermediate course. Take two? Anyone wanna join me?