photo class ~ first assignment: aperture

I took my first photography class back in high school. It was a pretty cool class. We took lots of black and white photos. We learned to develop film in a dark room. We even took photos by making an oatmeal box pinhole camera. I still have a few photos from that class. They are not very good but they do remind me of how my love of photography began.

Many years passed before I took another photography class. In 2004, I took a class at UH. The teacher briefly discussed the mechanics of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO but the class focused mainly towards the creative side photography. Many of the students in the class were semi-professional or planning a profession in photography. It was very intimidating, especially when our photos from our homework assignments were critiqued each week. I thought I took pretty good photos until I took this class. I became much more critical of my photography after taking this class and hated many of my photos for a while. This was frustrating at first but I think it turned out to be a good thing. As I look back at my photos before and after 2004, I can see that I did learn something from this class. I just did not realize it at the time.

I thought about taking another photography class after that but was not brave enough until this year. A friend of mine took the class I am now taking a couple of years ago. She tried to convince me to take it but I kept coming up with excuses. Finally, my aunt convinced me to sign up for the class. I secretly hoped that it would be canceled due to lack of interest. Instead it was overbooked!

I was pretty nervous walking into my first class. I knew after the first fifteen minutes that I loved this class!! My teacher is wonderful! He is organized, informative, talented, enthusiastic, and he does not make you feel like any question is stupid.

The syllabus said a DSLR or point and shoot with manual capabilities was required. The class I took in 2004 said the same thing. There are 17 people taking this class with a range of ages. Fifteen have DSLR cameras. I am one of the two without one. I was the only one without one in my 2004 class. I have thought about purchasing a DSLR for years and again right before the class began but I wanted to make sure I would use more than just the auto or program modes if I was going to invest in a DSLR. After just one class, I am now trying to figure out which DSLR camera to buy.

During the five week class, we will be shooting using only the manual setting on our cameras. The class will focus mainly on the mechanics of the camera instead of the creativity of photography. There is a part two class offered that will get more into the creative aspects while still focusing a little on the mechanics. I am thinking about signing up for the second class also, although it is difficult working while taking a class. I may decide to take the second class in the summer instead. This way, if I do purchase a DSLR, I will have time to learn how to use the camera and practice what I am learning from the first class before taking the second class.

We spent a lot of time talking about aperture and f/stops during our first class. Our homework assignment was to take five sets of photos, one set showing line, one showing shape, one set showing form, one set showing color, and one set showing texture. For each set, we were supposed to take three different exposures of the same image (one a normal exposure, one underexposed or a minus 1 stop of exposure, and one overexposed or a plus 1 stop of exposure). We were only supposed to manipulate the aperture setting when taking the photos, keeping the ISO set at 100 and the shutter speed set at 1/125th of a second. We were also told to shoot between 10 and 2 pm, when the light was the strongest.

I found it very challenging doing this assignment. Not because I needed to keep my camera on manual, but because my point and shoot Canon G9 has a more limited aperture range. I tried to take a few photos during my lunch break on Thursday but realized after I downloaded the them that I was hitting the wrong button and changing my shutter speed by mistake on a few of the photos. Good thing I used Thursday as my practice day since Friday turned out to be my only other day to shoot.

On Friday, I went up to the Nature Center. What was I thinking? The Nature Center is full of trees. Trees equal shade. I only ended up with a couple of shots with the range of the three exposures required and nothing I really liked.

Then the weather turned a bit voggy and overcast. I needed to go to Whole Foods before heading home, so I decided to try taking some more photos at Kahala Beach, which was nearby.

I continued to find the assignment a challenge but was able to get at least a few more acceptable shots with the range of three exposures required. I did find though that the shots I really wanted to take were impossible (at least with my aperture range) so I focused more on the assignment than on taking a great photo.

Saturday it rained all day and Sunday and Monday I was sick. Photos were due by 9 am Tuesday morning. That meant I had to decide on the set to turn in from the photos I took on Friday.

It was difficult decision but in the end, I kept coming back to these three photos. The first one is underexposed, the second one is a normal exposure, and the third one is overexposed.

under class one.jpg

normal class one.jpg

over class one.jpg

I was pretty nervous again when showing up for my second class, knowing that my photos would be critiqued in front of everyone. The teacher lectured the first half of the class, this time talking about shutter speed. It was hard to concentrate worrying a bit about what his reaction to my photos would be and what kind of photos everyone else turned in.

When he finally got to the photos, I was so relieved that my photos were not the first to be shown on the huge screen. I relaxed a bit as he began to critique the photos. After the teacher reviewed each set of three photos, I realized that his main focus was on whether or not the exposures were correct. I knew I followed his directions and took three photos with the correct exposures. After he talked about the exposures, we would guess the category of the photos (line, shape, form, color, or texture). Then the teacher would ask who took the photos and the person would raise his or her hand.

Many of the students (but not all) in this class are just learning how to shoot manual. This made me feel a whole lot better. I was still nervous though shooting with a point and shoot camera.

My photos were shown about two thirds of the way through. He seemed to like my photos and even said something about how my photos were an example of something he taught in the second class (I think it was about composure or contrasting colors). I was so nervous that I can’t remember just what he said but I do remember that he was impressed with my photos. I guess that 2004 class did pay off a little bit.

So what do you think I was going for? Line, shape, form, color, or texture?

10 thoughts on “photo class ~ first assignment: aperture

  1. Can’t decide what you were going for, but I find it fascinating that you are taking a photography class. Looking forward to read about (and see!) your experiences!


  2. It really sounds like a lot of fun. I’d love to take a class sometime but all the ones I’ve checked into around here say that a DSLR is mandatory. That’s cool that you found one where you can use your p and s. Can’t wait to hear more about it!


  3. My guess is lines. They are leading somewhere… But I love the first photo as there is so much contrast in the colors of the photo… Very cool class so far. Sounds a lot like my class from 2006.e


  4. Girasoli, this sounds like a great class! I’m always so nervous when I first start a class because you never know what the dynamic of the group will be like! And I worry that I’ll look foolish.
    I’m sure your teacher was impressed with your pix, you have a lot of talent.
    And I’m guessing this exercise was about colour? (Maybe texture, since they’re related?) You can really see how nuances of colour and texture are lost when the shot is under- or over-exposed.


  5. Being in the teaching profession, I’m sure you realize the strength of having a great teacher who can related his or her experience in a way that’s cohesive and absorbed by the students. Sounds like a great class. Glad you decided to take it! Looking forward to hearing more about it. Great photos! In grad school I took a class on Creative Thinking–I’m thinking you and I experienced the same feelings.
    PS: I was going go say line or form….or …. m


  6. Girasoli,I am so glad that you decided to give Photography Classes another try. I always enjoyed your photos,and obviously the teacher did too! I would guess that you were going for line.


  7. I’m so glad to hear that you got up the nerve and took the class. It sounds like you are ready for it and it does sound like a great class and teacher. I like his approach already. I took a class long ago and would like to take one again. I’d be just as terrified especially when it was my turn for a critique.
    Your picture fits several of the categories. I’m going to go with lines also although it also showed texture and color but my first though was lines.
    Looking forward to hearing more about the class and your projects.


  8. OK, I have no clue what you were going for, but I would love to take a photography class, never taken one before. I think it is great that you found a class that you feel comfortable with and have a great fun.


  9. I actually love the underexposed one, the colours are rich and deep. I’m to make a wild guess that you were going for line (although could fit any of the categories you named!)
    I laughed at the part about secretly hoping the course would be canceled!! But sounds like you are going to really enjoy it, and are already taking wonderful shots!


  10. Thanks everyone!!
    I decided to post the answer in the comments to not give it away for a few more days.
    I was going for lines BUT after reviewing my photos, the color was what really popped out. I didn’t see the texture aspect until I downloaded the photos onto my computer. I guess this set of photos shows all three. My teacher did a play on words and asked me if it was Vines – for lines :) I think that was a good sign that he liked my photos.
    Mar, I will hope to post more on my class soon. Either that or at least photos I am trying to take using manual settings. It is fun learning!
    Annie, too bad you all the classes mandate having a DSLR. It is more challenging with a point and shoot, bt I think I am learning the basics just the same.
    Expatraveler, I also liked the first photo the most. The true color of the fence was closer to the middle photo though. I guess part of the beauty of photography is being able to create what you want from what you see. Interesting that you took a similar class.
    sandrac, the dynamic of the group sure can make or break a class just as much as the teacher can. I didn’t really see the texture at all until I downloaded the photos onto my computer. Good observation.
    menehune, yes for sure! The teacher is so important. This teacher really shows his enthusiasm which I think makes me more excited about photography. I am torn whether or not to sign up right away for the next class or wait til summertime. I am glad I finally signed up. Creative Thinking… I can just imagine :)
    sheri, thanks! I am glad also! I only wish I did not wait to long now.
    marta, happy to read that you like his approach. I can’t imagine you being terrified about having your photos critiqued. I plan to do a post about my second class soon. Seem to be behind in everything these days.
    Candi, I think you would love taking a photography class. You should check out the colleges in your area. My class is an adult ed type non-credit UH class. I bet there are similar classes where you live.
    Anne, I also love the first photo the best.


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