"Photo" Journalism

For any of you out there who have ever considered buying a camera, take a photography class. You will thank yourself for it.

In Fall 1998, I enrolled in a beginning photo class (Robert Breuer's Photo 52) in a local community college (Las Positas -- Livermore, Calif.) in an attempt to learn how to use my dad's old 1960's-vintage Nikon F fully-manual camera (light meter available separately; $44.99 Sears-Roebuck). Within the first week I had learned the basic principles of taking photographs ("The camera's function is to properly expose the film") and honed my skills to the point where I felt confident with a camera in my hands. Our textbook, "Photography, 6th Edition" (London and Upton), was practically biblical in its thoroughness. And, of course, we had to take pictures for the class.

The format of the assignments was simple enough: Take at least one 24-exposure roll of film on a given subject. Develop those photographs. Narrow those 24 or more shots down to 15, which you bring into class for perusal. You and your feedback group subsequently select the 5 (subjectively) best shots out of those 15 and then you turn those 5 in.

All pictures were taken with my Nikon F camera. Unless otherwise noted, they were taken with a 43-86mm telephoto zoom lens; with no lens filter; on (slightly aged ;-)) Kodak Gold 400-speed film. Technical notes follow each thumbnail image.

The following pages contain my homework assignments over the course of the semester -- the five shots that I turned in plus details, comments, and a few technical notes.

Assignment One: "Campus"

The first assignment was to wander around campus and take any shots that struck our fancy. Simple enough, eh? The results of that instruction turned out all sorts of shots, from beautiful close-ups of foliage to architecture to happy students walking around to ... well, all sorts of stuff.

So, of course, I missed that day due to being sick. I later did my own campus wandering, and this is what turned up.

Assignment Two: "Water"

The second assignment was more free-form: we were just given the subject of water and expected to go off on our own and find our own shooting locations. Rather than stretch the concept by photographing bathrooms or some other equally wacky idea, I challenged myself by seeing what sort of results I could get with a more traditional approach.

I maintain that my photos, individually, were excellent for this assignment. They just got a low grade because they didn't hold together thematically very well. So much for variety.

Assignment Three: "Vineyards" (ahem)

Ah, a class field trip to scenic Livermore wine country! ... Except that I was on a week-long vacation during the day we were supposed to go. (sigh) Instead, I took my camera with me on vacation, and turned in vacation photos.

Kings Canyon National Park is an exceptionally beautiful area. Practically anywhere I stopped to pull the camera out, I got an excellent shot (although I learned a lot about how bad contrast can ruin a photo). It's probably due to this more than any skill on my part that I got a 96 on this assignment.

Assignment Four: "Urban"

Yet another in a string of "make-up" assignments. (Not that there's a trend forming here ...)

The class went to San Francisco to people-watch on one of the days my schedule was tied up working in the school library until late in the evening. I shrugged my shoulders, gritted my teeth (and bundled up warmly) and instead went out to take some nighttime shots of humanity's effect on its environment.

The resulting time exposures of the Altamont Pass and of a street in Tracy, Calif., earned me points for originality.

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Last updated Dec 20, 1998. Design (c) 1998 Tad "Baxil" Ramspott.