I was greatly taken aback when Stephen Bean the lecturer, said this blog was the first time a student had blogged about their university course in UCC.
I’d assumed it had been done many times.
You can find earlier pieces about the evening class here and here too…
Also, it was odd to be outed as a blogger in front of the class, none of whom I’d yet spoken to. I wondered what the others were thinking? How many had heard of blogs before? Whether any of them might be bloggers about other topics? I wondered if any of the UCC lecturers were bloggers? Pretty quickly I realised that Stephen was doing me a favour by bringing the existence of the blog out into the open. If people discovered I was doing it on the quiet, they might feel in some way offended. There’s naught so strange as folks…
It looks as if I’m going to be the slowest learner of PhotoShop, just as I was the slowest learner of touch typing the ‘Sight & Sound’ typing class I did in the 1970s. I emerged with a typing speed of 7 words a minute. Our second hour in the lab is hard for me because I don’t pay full attention to what’s being said. I allow my mind to wander over the implications, the possible, half-understood, barely intuited implications. So I’m always catching up with the pace of the software induction. The machines crashed a few times and I found the drawings on the whiteboard (of the screen) to be confusing. Why wasn’t the computer screen being projected and sections brought to our attention with one of those lazar-type pointers, I wondered…
I have PhotoShop on my laptop at home and I could be learning it at home. Garry lent me ‘PhotoShop in easy steps’ - one of those ‘Dummy’ books - but I am too interested in taking photographs to attend to working on them. I think I better challenge that habit. (But, I’m the same with my poetry: I love writing too much, when I might be better off doing the hard work of editing.)
Looks like habits fly in clusters, in formation…
The second lecture was revolutionary.
It took me completely by surprise because it was nearly all about the eye: rods and cones, blindspots too.. We did the Ishihara (?) colourblindness test. The theme of the session was that the eye is not a very effective instrument:
(1) only a small area of what we see is in full colour and focus.
(2) lots of our rods are switched off in day light (If all were active, things would be 3,000 times brighter - so it’s good they’re off)
(3) we are colourblind at night, the rods come into their own and are great at detecting motion. (Lots of stuff about how all this has evolved to help the species survive.)
(4) the cones look after the colour, and 80% of them detect red (10% green & 10% blue): and all that wonderful colour that we see is composed of three basic colours - red, blue & green. I couldn’t understand what magenta was, nor cyan nor yellow (I’ve never learned my colours properly and wish I’d gone to more than one watercolour painting class.)
The real revolution was the difference between the camera and the eye. If you take photos using the auto setting on my camera, everything is in focus. The eye doesn’t see all that in focus. So the photograph will be very different from the memory - unless you do something to make the camera work like the eye.
I think this is all about depth of field, focus, blur, contrast…
Stephen Bean said that good photographers take photographs that measure up to what they see. They get photographs of what they have seen. So, by implication, I need to learn how to manipulate the camera better.
While he was saying that I was saying to myself: ah, I need to learn what the camera sees, so as to let the camera do its work better. I felt my emphasis was different from Stephen’s. I has so loved taking photos from my hip: I had so loved the unexpected angles and rhythm of the camera dealing with motion - motion in my shaking & motion in the subject…
Am I really looking for a more pleasing image? I am, provided that ‘pleasing’ includes the experience of being challenged by results. For me the process is much more important than the end result, and I expect to stay in that mindset for a long time yet. I may be years before I’m pleased with the result; meanwhile, I intend to be very pleased with the process of learning by mistaking.
I almost forgot to record the gem that good photographers never trust their eyes: they take a Polaroid first to see what the camera can see. But it’ll be a while before I get one of those into play.
we’ll cover how blur has been treated by painters and photographers. I’ve got lots of blurry shot recently, and I’m getting to like blurry images.
Also we’re going to cover how you can look at a scene and tell whether it’ll make a good black & white image. I’m really looking forward to that because I have a project starting which will require me to decide which of my photos would work best in black and white.
This one of my favourites from this week. It’s a shop display poster, taken on Canon PowerShot A510, 3.2 mega pixels, and I can’t remember which camera settings I used , but it was taken from the hip.
I’m sorry I’ve never done darkroom work, never been in there with the chemicals, never been there for the miracle of the appearing image as it emerges on to the paper. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I did pick up a little from Jan’s photographic course in London in the 1980s. She learned and I piggybacked on her learning. I suppose that’s my main learning style: get in touch with someone who is a good learner and suck up their growth, so that I somehow make it mine. An indirect learner. Anyway learning from direct experience takes too long: there is too much to learn.
Publications to buy:
(1) Royal Photographic Society Magazine - see "www.rps.org"
(2) Practical Photography.
The most important thing to think about when buying a camera is the lens.
I haven’t plumbed half the depth of the camera I have: it’s premature to buy anything new. Resist the temptation. Resist resist…
I did go in search of a monopod but they didn’t have one in stock, so I get to take blurry images in low light.
Looks like I’ll miss the next class, unless Mary Ann comes back from sick to mind Grace. Stephen said he’d email me the assignment…
A gem of a book:
Finally, my good friend Garry, who forgotten more than I’ve yet learned about photography, has loaned me a gem: ‘Shots from the hip’ by Alias Johnny Stiletto (1992):
"Shooting from the hip you’ll get a far better perspective and there’s far less chance of being seen taking the shot. Action carries on normally. Nothing produces a greater change in behaviour than the sight of a camera or the thought that you’re about to be photographed by a total stranger…
"Break the contact between camera and eye and you’ll take more interesting shots. Let the world happen in front of you. Watch. Look. Point the camera and press the button…"
ps: A link to one of my favourite Irish photographers, Claire Wilson. You can find her advice under ‘Tutorials and reviews’ - if you scroll down the right hand side.