Some of my photography students during hour golden hour photography meet up at the TMCC overflow parking lot.
I know what it’s like to have taught a class that the majority of the students hated from day one. I’ve done it, and it’s tough. It was always disheartening to declare on the first day that students would be reading hundreds of pages of texts that are difficult to relate to and older than dirt, and I could often sense the fear and resentment after they were told that they would write several essays about these texts which would be meticulously graded. I’ve taught classes like that a few times, and I’m relieved to finally have the chance to teach photography, a subject that both I am passionate about and students choose to take on their own.
It was a lot of hard work getting started, and learning how to approach teaching sophisticated software like Photoshop and Lightroom was challenging. Honestly though, I think everything went well, and I’m confident that my first group of image-engineers thought of this as a very positive experience. I expected the motivation factor in the class to be much higher than what I was used to, but being overzealous was the one thing that made me wary. I’ve had a few professors in the past who tended to feel the need to prove themselves by loading their students down with tons of work and requiring them to do much more than an experienced professor would require. All this being considered I still wondered if I could get away with being overzealous in this photography class? I really wanted to because I wanted to make sure that my students got their money’s worth. I also wanted to know how much I could feasibly teach them during one semester, and overzealous or not, the students in my photo class basically did more work than the photo 1 class at one of the most distinguished universities in the world. My goal was to make sure that every assignment would teach them something new and help them develop into a better photographer. I think that there was a significant improvement in every students’ photography throughout the semester, and I received permission to use some of their images in this blog which shows some photos from each of the assignments and describes a little bit about what I hoped they’d learn. Enough about that, let’s get to the good stuff: their photos.
Assignment 1: Bad Photos For this assignment, my goal was to show them some of the things that ultimately make a bad photo, but I wanted them to intentionally make their “bad photos” with the goal of creating something aesthetically pleasing. These weren’t the best batch of images from the class, but I did like some of the photos, and I think they learned some things to try to avoid. One of the requirements was to intentionally shoot something out of focus.
Out of Focus Fire Embers — Photo by Kyla Kosher
Assignment 2: Sports and Action For the second assignment, the goal was to get the students thinking about shutter speeds, and how they handle motion in a photograph. They were asked to turn in images that froze motion, blurred motion, and a set of images that represented a burst of motion in three photos. This was my own first assignment during my first photography class back in the 1990s, and I think it is a great way to introduce manual exposure. There were several images turned in that I liked a lot. These are just a few of them.
Might as well Jump at Reno Airport — Photo by Kyla Kosher
Capturing Motion — Photo by Mayra Santiago
Action Series — Photo by Maximus Ciesynski
Assignment 3: Macro For their third assignment, I wanted the students to take closeup photos. The assignment teaches how critical focusing is when composing a photograph, especially when the subject is very close. All lenses have different minimum focus distances, and this is a good way of learning how close that one can get without losing focus.
Totally Buggy — Photo by Deborah Rife
Closeup of Orange Peel — Photo by Mayra Santiago
Old Soccer Ball Detail — Photo by Adriana Aguirre
Closeup of Snake photo by Lori Ketner
Assignment 4: Architecture The architecture assignment is a good way to show students how lines are distorted in photographs. Most cameras don’t allow tilts and shifts to correct the way that lines bend in an image, and it’s hard for a beginner to notice this until they see it. I also introduced panoramic stitching in this assignment and showed them how to stitch together panoramics by shooting vertical images which overlap each other.
Repeating Patterns of Architecture — Photo by Jovanna Rivera
No Vanishing Point in Architecture — Photo by Frank Testa
Framed from Nevada Museum of Art — Photo by Jovanna Rivera
Assignment 5: Still Life The still life assignment was a lot of fun for me because I taught them some Photoshop magic tricks. Part of the assignment was to make something appear like it was levitating, and that was the most challenging part of the assignment.
Photoshop Magic, Levitating Coffee Cup — Photo by Mayra Santiago
Assignment 6: Portraiture With the portraiture assignment, I asked the students to make photographs of people in various types of light. It was intended to show how changing the light source can drastically change the way a person looks. My favorite part of the assignment was the environmental portrait requirement. It forced the students to get out of their comfort zone a little bit, and some of them went out and asked complete strangers to pose at a location which defines them. A lot of these images reminded me of my days as a photojournalist.
Environmental Portrait — Photo by Adriana Aguirre
A Child’s Perspective photo by Teresa Hunsaker
Portrait with Flash & Ambient Light photo by Jovanna Rivera
Assignment 7: Landscapes The landscape assignment was my favorite, and that’s because it’s what I do the most with my own photography, so I saved the assignment until the week before spring break. I asked them to shoot in various lighting conditions, and they also had to put together another stitched panoramic. The hardest part of the assignment was for them to find an S-curve in a photo. A lot of their s-curves weren’t obvious, and I doubt I’ll keep the requirement in future classes. One really fun thing about this assignment was that I cancelled class one day and instead met the class during sunrise and sunset at an awesome overlook of Reno that can be seen from the community college’s overflow parking lot. I couldn’t require them to show, but most of them did, and it was a lot of fun.
S-Curve along Nevada Road — Photo by Kyla Kosher
Stamped Reservoir — Photo by Deborah Rife
Highway S-Curve — Photo by Teresa Hunsaker
Reno Panoramic — Photo by Rickie Archer
Assignment 8 – Lighting For the eight assignment, I printed out a document with descriptions of several different types of lighting and asked them to make at least five different photographs that use different types of light. Finding aesthetically pleasing subjects was not required, but many students went ahead and searched out some really nice stuff.
Dusk on the Edges of Reno — Photo by Josh Brownlee
Late Evening at Sparks Marina, Photo by Adriana Aguirre
Assignment 9: Photojournalism This assignment seemed to be one of the least liked assignments of the semester, and I think it’s because it forced the students to get out of their comfort zones a little bit. I felt kind of mean, but I banned images of family members, and the photographer was required to submit 3-5 images that work together to tell a story. I also required captions. Out of my 11 assignments, they were allowed to flake out on one without any penalty, and this one was the most flaked. Regardless, here are two photojournalism projects from the class.
I had been to the museum once before about 8 years ago and this car was the one that I have been wanting to get back there to see. I tried to capture the exterior of the car but restriction with lens, light and positioning did not do the car justice. The car is a stripped 1938 Corsair Westchester Sedan with a Granatelli modified 192 horsepower supercharged Cord motor, the body was constructed by Maurice Schwartz of Bohman & Schwartz Body Company. It starred in the 1938 movie The Young at Heart where it was called the ‘Flying Wombat. The body is a one of a kind shell That changed the dynamics of the interior greatly. one passenger out of 6 can sit on the left of the driver. Photo by Josh Brownlee
Late 1800s horseless carriage. I thought that this perpendicular angle help capture the simplicity of the vehicle. It appears as though safety was not a big concern in the 1880s. Photo by Josh Brownlee
Late in my visit to the exhibits I had switched back to my wide lens and knew that I would want a shot showing how big the rooms are that hold the cars. My tripod can get down to about one and a half feet off the ground or just over six feet high. I always want to capture a unique angle so I collapsed the legs of the tripod and held it up so I was holding the lower sections of the legs and I tried pushing the camera against the air ducts above me to try and brace and keep the shot still. If you notice in the mid to upper left of frame by the yellow car Docent Stan had just come into the room. He caught me holding my camera up high. After I showed him this file he agreed that my innovative technique was a good idea. Photo by Josh Brownlee
Stan is a very accommodating, gracious gentlemen and his wealth of knowledge that will keep you riveted to the fine details in the history of a lot of the automobiles on display. In a good list of amazing facts he talked about he pointed out the crude old style wheel balancer that is in frame just above his right hand. The examples of the progression of technology in one building is hard to wrap your head around. Photo by Josh Brownlee
Dave worked as a volunteer to start then made a new career. Photo by Searra Marie
Small tourist town glasswork shop tuns big time! Photo by Searra Marie
Assignment 10: HDR The tenth assignment covered HDR (high dynamic range) photography. It’s really popular right now, and a lot of people are interested in it, so I decided to add it to the semester. For the assignment, they were to shoot at least 3 images of the same thing but have each image exposed for a different part of the subject. It requires at least shooting one exposure for shadows, one for midtones, and one for highlights, and after the photographic procedure, the files are blended together into one image. It can be used very conservatively where most people will not notice, and it can also be really cooked and will resemble a Star Trek movie set.
Surreal Mt. Rose in HDR photo by Teresa Hunsaker
Assignment 11: Nighttime Photography The last assignment, night photography, was one of my favorites. I liked saving it for last because it is probably the most challenging, and this was an easy decision for the spring semester. I might have to do it earlier in the fall semester because of the cold weather. Another thing that added to the fun of this assignment is that nearly half the class joined me for a three hour photo shoot at Fort Churchill State Park. For the assignment, they were required to photograph one nature scene and one architectural scene at night. They were also asked to turn in another image which contained some sort of light painting.
Fort Churchill Stars, Nevada photo by Josh Brownlee
Moonlit Waterfall Near Big Springs photo by Teresa Hunsaker
Nighttime Reno Bridge photo by Adriana Aguirre
Photography has always meant a lot to me, and I am thankful to have finally had the opportunity to teach it. It didn’t feel like work, honestly. I mean the grading and the attendance taking, that’s work. But teaching some techniques that hopefully students will be able to use to richen the rest of their lives is too much fun and rewarding to be work. I’m already looking forward to doing it again next semester.