Mrs. ShuGar’s Snapshots: Photography Homework #1

The camera is an extension of your eye. –  My Photography Teacher

Remember back in the day when our phones didn’t have cameras or we couldn’t take any digital photos?  Instead we relied on using film to take pictures and then waiting for days (or for one hour if you paid extra) to actually see the images.

I remember as a kid receiving a pink Kodak pocket Instamatic camera (those real thin ones) from my parents and feeling the urge to photograph everything in front of me. I believe it was at that time when I fell in love with shooting photos.

Technology has advanced the art of photography beyond our wildest imaginations.  I know there are purists out there who long for the days when film was the mainstay, but I am eager to learn the multi-faceted world of digital photography.

I have decided to take a basic photography class at my local community college and begin to take photos with Mr. ShuGar’s new DSLR camera.  He uses it for shooting film and I can use it for capturing stills.  I would like to share with you my photography journey and take you behind my lens to experience my ShuGar world.

Disclaimer: I am a novice and do not claim, ever, to be a professional photographer. Just trying to keep it real, so please be kind.

Last week was my first day of class and, boy, was it a unique first day!  The class is three hours long every Wednesday for six weeks. I figure I can learn the basics and then explore on my own.  I knew my teacher wasn’t your typical instructor the first few minutes into the class.  He has a full set of white hair, is probably in his late 60s, walks with a limp and is unapologetic about his sarcastic attitude. He started off by holding his water bottle and saying, “This is what’s great about water bottles:  You can’t tell I’m drinking vodka!” Say what? At first, I thought this was his corny sense of humor, but he conducted the class with such dry humor and brashness that made me wonder if he actually was drunk!

He continued on a rant about the perils of digital photography and why he still shoots on film, when possible.  “I’ll kill any one of you who, from this point forward, use the auto setting in your cameras. Got it?” He scolded us and warned us “to take that damn thing off automatic!” We must use manual and change the settings for each photo we take – each image is a work of our art.

He discouraged us from standing upright for any shot, as opposed to squatting or lying on the ground to get the best possible angle of the subject.  I better work on strengthening my leg muscles!  The funniest is when any one of us raised our hands to ask a question, he immediately mumbled to himself (sort of), “Yeah, what do you want?” So awesome!

He proceeded by rambling on about f stops, aperture, ISO, shutter speed and I don’t even know what else. Needless to say, I was completely lost.  Talk about a humbling experience for this over-achiever.  I most definitely felt like the class dummy!  As with anything, I know this photography venture will have a steep-learning curve, so I’ll hang in there until everything begins to become focused (pun intended).

Tangent: Someone came into the class late on day two. The audacious student raised her hand and asked the teacher what we were discussing. He shut her down quickly by telling her, “You just came in so don’t ask any questions. You’re on my shit list.” My hero! I fantasized about saying this to some of my irresponsible students when I was a teacher.

I would love to share my first class assignment with you.  Our teacher told us to pick one color (except black and white) and take four to six photos of that same color, where it takes up at least 60% of each photo.  The color we chose had to be the primary subject in all the photos; easier said than done! Oh, he forbade us from taking any boring photos. For our second class, we presented our images on a projector.

For my assignment – I chose:

My color: Red

My location: Lansing, Michigan

My subject: Barns

Taking advantage of visiting Mr. ShuGar’s family in Michigan, I decided to take photos of red barns for my homework assignment.  Mr. ShuGar’s sweet brother-in-law drove us around the outskirts of Lansing in search for the perfect barn. Below are my red snapshots and my teacher’s feedback on day two of my photography class.

(1)  Barn Side, White House Background

My teacher liked this shot. He said he would have cropped the bottom just a tiny bit more to have red be even more prominent, but overall I got two thumbs up.

(2)  Red Barn, White Window

I love this shot and so did he! The problem was that the white appeared a bit too strong so he said it defeated the purpose of the assignment. However, he said he was really impressed with the photo.

(3)  Barn Bottom Up Angle

For this one, I got down pretty low to the ground to get this angle. It almost looks like a ship, right? My teacher loved this one. He especially liked the texture of the wood.

(4)  Red Hydrant

In an attempt to get different tones of red, I photographed the red hydrant in the foreground and the red barn in the background. Another success overall, although my teacher said I should have cropped the green more so that it looked more like an afterthought in the photo, compared to the red.

(5)  Round Barn

According to Mr. ShuGar’s brother-in-law, red barns like these are almost non-existent. I was trying to play around with the exposure and it came out a bit overexposed.

(6)  Both Barns, Red Fence

My teacher really liked the composition of this shot. He said I captured a truly interesting photograph.

It was really nerve-racking having our photos critiqued in front of our classmates. However, I survived it and the best part is that he told me that I had a real eye and talent in front of the whole class. He didn’t tell anyone else that at all! He said he really liked my angles and style.

It’s amazing what a little compliment can do – I’ve been on cloud nine all week. It got me thinking how important it is to support each other and say nice things. Sometimes some validation is all you need, especially in this world where we easily criticize each other behind our computers.  Blogging and taking up photography have really humbled me so far – they both have taught me how vulnerable you can feel when you pursue your passion.  I am so excited to learn more and write more.  Stay tuned for more of my snapshots for my second assignment. Have a nice weekend! I plan to because I will be celebrating turning 35 =)

 Photo credit: (history of film) Antonio Vicentini, (Kodak Instamatic) Fotofex Camera, (Red photos) Mrs. ShuGar

  • Katrina

    Carmen, I love these photos – especially the “red barn up angle” – you really are a talented photographer! you are inspiring me and giving me the itch to buy a big bulky DSLR camera 🙂 if you get a chance to ask Pete what he thinks of compact system cameras, or if you know about them, it’d be great to hear your opinion. I’m leaning more towards compact system because of the convenience 🙂

    oh and Happy Birthday, enjoy your day today!

    • Thanks for the compliments! It means A LOT! I will ask Pete about your camera choices as I have no clue. I’m a newbie 😉 The DSLR cameras are bigger, but they are also more sophisticated and capable of so much so I guess it all depends on what you will be using it for. Thanks for the birthday love! It was a great day!

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