on teaching and learning: anticipation

 Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

 Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

 Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

 Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

Fuji Superia on a Pentax K1000

 Kodak Portra 400 on a Pentax K1000

Kodak Portra 400 on a Pentax K1000

 Fuji Superia on a Canon Elan 35mm

Fuji Superia on a Canon Elan 35mm

I'm in the tiniest of windows between my classes ending for the next six weeks or so and our dramatic shift into Cal's exam schedule (half days). I have TWO DAYS people. I had all sorts of plans to battle the house cleaning and tackle the ironing and generally get caught up after months of work and illness, but I've spent most of the morning looking at cameras to take on a trip we have coming up next month. I'm telling myself that I needed the break. There's always tomorrow, right? I can iron when I'm dead. I'd still rather not.

So as you can see, time is of the essence. I have all sorts of things I need to do, but there are lots of things I want to do as well. I'm just coming off wrapping up a run of two successful classes. Well, I think they went well, at least. I'm coming up on the one-year anniversary of teaching my Introduction to Digital Photography course, and after a year, I feel like I have a really good class pulled together. I love teaching. I love teaching it, and after a year, I feel like I've taken the course that my friend and mentor lovingly tended and made it my own. Each session I meet wonderful, amazing and talented people, and that's a pretty enriching way to live my life.

This winter I added a class that focuses (har har) on composition, which is my true love in photography. I've had two runs of it, and I think and hope that it's gotten stronger each time. There's still work to do on that one, I think. It's all good. Labor of love and all that.

I'm only teaching Intro this summer. Partly that's by necessity, since we're traveling so much, but it's also by design. I'm working on a new class for the fall which will be an extension of my Intro class. Digging more deeply into your newly found technical skills. I'm excited about it. And needless to say, I've been thinking about it a lot. What I want to teach, and what I think is important to learn.

When I was first learning to shoot film and immersing myself in everything I could read, I got my hands on Sherri Koop's eBook FILM. I love it. It's still one of my go-tos for both education and inspiration. One of the things she talks about that really struck me is to shoot your everyday. Don't save your film for special occasions; use it for the everyday moments.

I thought that was pretty smart, so I jumped into that plan enthusiastically, if not wisely. I shot a lot. But I wasn't taking care with my shots. I wasn't necessarily smart about what I shot, so I got a lot of crappy shots. When you're shooting film, that's practically sinful. (Hangs head in shame.) So I tried to rein myself back in (seems I'm always reining myself back in).

And I found myself thinking about this experience a lot as I let my brain run free in mulling over creating this new class and continuing to improve my Composition class. What did it teach me, and what do I want my students to learn? I talk about patience a lot, but mostly in terms of having patience with yourself. Learning photography is hard! I think as I move along with this, I might shift that some to be about patience for getting the shot. This is also hard.

So much about good photography lies in this kind of patience, and so much of that is about anticipation. Wait for it. Wait for it. And then, THERE! I'm not the best at that kind of patience. You can see from some of the shots above that I tend to worry that the moment can pass me by. I take too many shots instead of trusting myself, trusting in patience and anticipating the moment. You know what else is hard to learn? When to say, no there's no shot here for me today.

I'm still learning. The more I teach, the more I learn that, and honestly, that's just the best thing! And now I have the thread, the germ of an idea, so if you're one of my students this fall or later next year taking Composition, get ready to think about anticipation. I'll be thinking about it a lot between now and then.