Wednesday 11 January 2017

Staying Humble...

“In a humble state, you learn better.”
- John Dooner

Ah yes, staying humble…the key to learning…

Well, yesterday I was feeling very humble indeed at the Art Gallery of Ontario. But happy humble.

Let me explain, with apologies to my experienced camera friends, for whom the following may reek of naiveté. Cue the eye rolling…

I’ve signed up for a basic digital photography course at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The first session was yesterday afternoon and the remaining three sessions will be held on the remaining Tuesdays in January. I’ve been using my marvellous Canon EOS 70D since last spring and am very pleased with the results. However…I’ve played it safe by sticking mostly to the ‘Auto’ mode, leaving all the technical decisions to the camera. I’d never ventured into the dreaded ‘Manual’ mode. Very scary, that ‘Manual’ mode. It was waaaaay too easy relying on the magic ‘Auto’ mode to make all the tough judgement calls about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, etc. The upshot, of course, was that I didn’t understand how any of these crucial photographic concepts worked.

Well, as has often happened in my life, I had to kick myself in the butt and force myself out of my comfort zone. Yes, yes, I knew how to make a fine photograph, but I didn’t understand why my camera made the decisions it did on my behalf. Time to change that.

When I saw the AGO’s four-part basic digital photography course advertised on its website, I lunged…which is how I landed in Seminar Room 3 at the AGO’s Anne Tanenbaum Gallery School at the Weston Family Learning Centre yesterday afternoon, along with eleven other nervous photographers and Janieta, our instructor. I am the only man, which makes the learning environment safer for me.

Janieta is a patient, low-key instructor with enormous talent and an impressive portfolio. And she doesn’t let her students get away with anything. After some basic housekeeping, we were hustled off to the AGO’s Walker Court to – as Janieta gently put it – become friends with our cameras. In other words, ‘Manual’ mode for everyone. Yikes – talk about jumping into the deep, cold end of the photographic pool! Present when she was needed, in the background when she wasn’t, she got us all working through aperture settings, shutter speeds, ISO settings, and white balance. I recorded some truly dreadful photos and felt as if I had ten thumbs. Gradually, however – ah, the miracle of a good teacher allowing you to make mistakes! – I began to discover all kinds of bits and bobs on my camera that I’d read about but had never really comprehended.  What a revelation! I kept yipping, “Oh, so THAT’S what that dial does! Woohoo!”

And to do this surrounded by the grandeur of the Art Gallery of Ontario was simply amazing. I can’t wait for next week’s class: “Experimental Exposure”!

In the meantime, I will reread my Canon EOS 70D for Dummies, but this time – I hope! – with a better understanding of its contents. Over the next three weeks, I will be blogging about the course and my evolution as a more proficient photographer. And a humbler one.

For now, here are some images from yesterday’s session, warts and all. Enjoy!

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