Professor Smith says that we all have makings of good photographers. His job is making professionals out of non-starters. He promises us that by the end of the semester we will be taking pictures like professionals. I like the sound of this. His class is for students with no background in photography. And to look at the pictures the other students take, I could swear that it is only like two of us who fall in category: never taken photography classes before. I have been taking these classes since September. The rules of the game are laid out in the first class.
- Buy your own digital SLR camera. A hot-shoe
flash. An SD card. A 50mm lens. A 500 GB external hard drive.
- The settings will always be manual. The ISO 200-400.
- Aperture is the editing software permitted in the class. There will be no cropping and no Photoshop.
Anything other than that means a failed grade. The important rule of following instructions.
The first assignment is to take portraits on both sunny and cloudy days. I think I have understood the instructions in class until I ask Sara Jane, who has graciously agreed to be my model as I tingle with dreams of being a pro. When I take the pictures all I can see is white. I know I am not getting the settings right. I realize how bad it is when I see the days are going fast and the other students are bringing in good pictures in class. Action. I stay behind after class with another student for extra tutoring. The assignment for the week is depth of field. But first Professor Smith takes us through the camera instructions again. We understand aperture, and f-stop and ISO before we go out shooting. He sees the mistakes we have been making. So I learn how to set the light meter. He tells me to learn to play with my camera. Make it my best friend. And we do some bit of practice for the depth of field assignment. I head back to MIT determined to get my pictures for the first assignment done. I tell Sara Jane that now the next pictures will be great. And indeed they are. She is no longer a white form in the camera but Sara Jane.
Now when my friends come over to visit me in Boston, I make them subjects of my photography classes. Heather Farrell has been my subject for depth of field and the freezing assignment. Mildred has also been my subject. The secret is to take as many pictures as I can and then pick the best. I have learnt that sometimes a pictures good great on the camera screen but when I upload it in aperture and start editing, it is no longer sharp. But I will keep clicking away until I get there. You can follow my photo journey on flickr.