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  1. #21

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    Wigwam Jones, I hear what you're saying. So let's take your argument a few steps further... Let's just not teach photography at all. Let them learn on their own like the original photographers did. Or perhaps like some of us did. I'm sure there are many of us that didn't go to school for photography.

    This is just one guy, teaching at a smallish university in southern Ontario. He's not teaching the future professional photographers at a major arts university. And I'm sure this is not the only thing he teaches nor the only way he teaches it. He's introducing people to photography that may be art teachers in high schools. This is a PART of what they have to learn over their four years there. I don't think there is any crime in taking a small step back from the uber-automated, digital, one size fits all world and having them spend a few bucks on a manual camera and lens and some film. Heavens! Isn't that part of the reason this forum exists?

    Requirements of university courses are everywhere. Texts are a prime example: You MUST have this text and edition, not the edition before it but the current edition. That used to piss me off at university but that was how it worked. A LOT of courses would go further than that with their requirements.

    How would you teach a course like this, Wiggy?
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  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by DBP
    The difference between using manual cameras and starting from scratch to make everything is that learning witha manual camera involves learning to control the variables that directly affect composition, namely plane of focus, perspective, depth of field, and shutter speed.
    I am not saying it is not desirable to know these things. However, focus is neither the beginning nor the end of making a photograph. Neither is exposure.

    And frankly some things are harder to do with an autofocus camera, unless you turn off all the features (and sometimes even then - the screens are designed for framing, not critical focus).
    I agree - but that's just my opinion (and yours apparently). Others feel differently.

    A good example is macrophotography. I usually find that people who learned to drive without power and automatic everything are more aware of how the car behaves under duress, and thus better drivers.
    Define 'better' when it comes to photography.

    I submit the same is true of photographers - those who know how to make the picture the way they want it will do better, even when using something highly automated.
    Change 'will' to 'may' above and I'll agree with you.

    I met someone last year who did a lot of macrophotography of flowers. Almost invariably, the plane of focus was the edge of the flower, while some of the body was blurred. She used one of the EOS models, I forget which. She was using the autofocus, which was picking the contrast at the tips of the petals as a focus point, about 1 cm closer than needed given the apparent depth of field. I found myself annoyed by the effect, and thinking how much better the shots could be if she had depth of field preview. I submit that a student is far better off learning with, for example, a old screw mount SLR, than an auto-everything wonder - even an F5. And the student can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in the process. (I wonder when Epson and Cosina are going to partner on a screw-mount, or maybe F-mount, DSLR. It would seem the logical next step if the RD1 sells well.)
    Most of what you say with regard to the positive aspects of understanding one's craft are true. A person who discovers that their choice of tool is negatively affecting their product and who wishes to improve will generally find out how to adjust the camera to make the choices they wish (if possible), or to take manual control (if possible) or replace the camera with one that will allow them to do what they want to do.

    And many are the photographers who are perfectly satisfied with sharp infinity focus on the landscapes they prefer to shoot. If AF and AE produced what they wanted, why did they 'have to' learn MF and manual exposure control?

    You fail to take into account that when producing a print - the ultimate goal of photography (?), there are numerous other factors, none of which was stressed, explained, or even explored in photography classes that I took as a callow youth. Choice of paper? Filtration in enlargement? Developers for film and paper and their effects on grain and edge effects? Sharpness? Lens formulae for particular use - say Petzval versus Double Gauss designs? The list goes on and on - and ALL of these can be said to have effect on a final print - one could affirmatively argue that knowledge and control of these aspects of photography would be a good thing. We do not deride a teacher who fails to teach, say albumen paper versus printing-out-paper - but we howl with indignation if a student is not taught photography on a Pentax K1000 with Tri-X and D-76. Why, they're not learning 'properly'!

    Knowledge is good. Intentional control of the creative process is good. None of these can make a bad photographer into a good one, and true genius will out, regardless of how much the person knows about f-stops. Those with talent who choose to pursue the craft of photography will generally choose to learn more about it, just as a painter with real talent learns about brushes and paints instead of just using whatever is at hand - when the time comes to do so. Requiring it of beginners up front smacks of elitism and a determination to ensure that others go through what we went through - just because.
    Best,

    Wiggy

    Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by smileyguy
    Wigwam Jones, I hear what you're saying. So let's take your argument a few steps further... Let's just not teach photography at all. Let them learn on their own like the original photographers did. Or perhaps like some of us did. I'm sure there are many of us that didn't go to school for photography.
    I didn't go to school for photography, but I took a course in high school, way back in 1977 or so. In college, I think I took a course on "Mountain Photography" because it looked like a cake course, which it was. Photos of mountains - we have a lot of them in Colorado, where I went to school.

    This is just one guy, teaching at a smallish university in southern Ontario. He's not teaching the future professional photographers at a major arts university.
    I agree that this is not a 'major arts university'. Which one did Adams attend? Weston? Winogrand? Strand? Meatyard? I did not know that the photographers we hold in high regards were all arts majors at major universities.

    And I'm sure this is not the only thing he teaches nor the only way he teaches it. He's introducing people to photography that may be art teachers in high schools. This is a PART of what they have to learn over their four years there. I don't think there is any crime in taking a small step back from the uber-automated, digital, one size fits all world and having them spend a few bucks on a manual camera and lens and some film. Heavens! Isn't that part of the reason this forum exists?
    No one is required to purchase any kit to participate in forums here. Nor, I hope are people's abilities made less of because they do not know how to set their aperture, or why they should.

    He is setting a requirement that does not make any sense in modern terms. Where does one buy a Pentax K1000? Not at the local photography store, assuming that there is one (my town has exactly none). Not at Best Buy or Walmart, certainly. E-Bay? Ah, and if the student ends up buying a non-functional piece of 'mint minus' junk, as many of us have? Make them buy another?

    This requirement alone, I would presume, would turn at least some would-be photographers off from taking the course. Ah, and we say "Good! Get those slackers out of there!" And who knows what future photographic genius we have thwarted in our purity?

    Requirements of university courses are everywhere. Texts are a prime example: You MUST have this text and edition, not the edition before it but the current edition. That used to piss me off at university but that was how it worked. A LOT of courses would go further than that with their requirements.
    And if one is required to hunt down and purchase a rare manuscript to take a basic course in English Lit? This is not a request that the student come equipped with a camera that one can easily obtain these days.

    How would you teach a course like this, Wiggy?
    I would teach the theory and history of photography, include lots of examples, and encourage my students to take lots of photographs of everything they could think of, having explained how composition affects the final product. For those who were limited by the capabilities of their cameras would be explanations of what could give them more control, should they choose to pursue it - while reminding them that masterpieces have been made with cameras that possessed meniscus lenses and no exposure control whatsoever.

    I would teach that a master understands the limitations of his or her tools and works within them, using their characteristics to best advantage; and that when the tools selected cannot produce the desired result, there are other tools that can allow a finer degree of control.

    In my local photography club there is a woman who at first glance looks like a typical 'Soccer Mom.' She has a point-n-shoot digital camera, and she does not know very much about it - she never fiddles with any of the settings. Sometimes it does not focus where she wants it to, but she knows how to 'fool' it into doing what she wants most times. Her point-n-shoot fortunately has a nice sharp lens and good automated exposure control. She does not understand computers and does not have a darkroom - therefore her photographs are framed in the camera, printed at Walmart, and when she makes an enlargment that requires cropping, she draws lines on a 4x6 print to indicate where she wants the crop made. She has put my best efforts to shame more than once, and I am envious of her talent.

    One can say that she would be so much better if she only had better tools and the knowledge to control them. She does not seem to think so. Her work backs up her choices.

    If one like her attempted to take a basic photography course today, should she be excluded because she did not wish to learn manual focus and exposure control?

    Such demands seem to me to be elitist, snobbish, and ultimately self-defeating to the craft of photography.
    Best,

    Wiggy

    Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Zentena
    I'm sure that's part of it but it's also about not letting people cheat.
    Cheat?

    Do you ask the specifics of how a photograph was made before you can appreciate it? Camera, lens, shutter speed, aperture, and so on? Does it matter to you if the resulting print is on a certain type of paper, or processed with a particular kind of developer, or if a certain enlarger lens was used? If so, I would posit that you're unable to appreciate art - you appreciate craftsmanship instead. Not that this is bad, but it has nothing to do with the final result - how a photograph affects the viewer.

    And if you are more concerned with the craftsmanship of the photograph than the artistic merit it may have, then I would further argue that one is similarly 'cheating' if one does not develop, enlarge, and print their own photographs. Mat and mount their own prints, as well as frame them.

    In fact, why are they permitted to just 'buy' film, chemistry, and paper? Why is it not cheating if we don't require them to make their own?

    One person could say "I have a 1932 Ford roadster that I restored myself. I did all the work on it that I could myself, and farmed out only what I was incapable of doing. I have great pride in my car."

    And another person says "I found a 1932 Ford roadster in terrible shape. I searched out and found the best experts I could, worked with them to determine how the car should look when finished, supervised, and paid for the work. I have great pride in my car."

    Which person is the cheater?

    Which car is worth more?

    And which car would the average person see and consider a work of art?

    We attach value to the product as societies. As individuals, we attach value to the process of making the product. And each of us has our own set of criteria for evaluating that process.

    And it is 'cheating' to rely on auto-exposure why?
    Best,

    Wiggy

    Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote

  5. #25
    DBP
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    [QUOTE=Wigwam Jones]Change 'will' to 'may' above and I'll agree with you.QUOTE]
    Can we compromise on 'should'? Some people will never produce good photos no matter how much they know. Others do quite well with a point and shoot, within its limitations.

    On a more philosophical note, I have become a believer over the years, including some spent teaching and quite a few spent in training and mentoring roles, that a mastery of fundamentals will actually increase the interest and sense of accomplishment of the student. In particular for the current generation of youth, who are accustomed to levels of convenience in some tasks that were inconceivable a quarter century ago, being able to point a lens at something and get a reasonable reproduction is something they assume is easy - and it is with any modern automated camera. Back when meters were handheld, doing even that much was a bit of an accomplishment. What gives the sense of achievement that will bring them back is learning how to more, and that requires learning to control the most basic part of the creative process, the image capture itself. More and more, I find myself in conversations with kids in their teens and early twenties who approach me wanting to learn how to get into photography, and speak disparagingly of the modern wonders they have used. They don't approach me when I use an N50, but let me pull out something medium or large format, or a rangefinder, or even an old SLR, and they will walk over and ask a question.

  6. #26

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    Great response! Great discussion! We could go around in circles all day with this one: point, counter point.

    You took a course in "mountain photography" in college? Isn't that a requirement right there? I imagine you wouldn't have been turfed for taking a picture of a flower but the point of the course was: mountains. "Today we're going to take some pictures of mountains."

    No, no one is required to purchase any special gear to participate. I'm a musician, I play trombone. If I start going on about mouthpieces and repertoire in this forum I would be shut down or flamed fairly quickly for being WAAAYYY off topic. That was my point about the film camera. We here because we love film cameras: toy cameras, slr, lf, mf, rf, etc.

    I think that it is not an unreasoable requirement at all. This is not a university in the middle of nowhere (although some would argue that point...). For some students getting that new edition text IS the equivalent of a rare manuscript in terms of financial needs.

    It sounds great the things that you would teach. It all makes sense. Others would teach different things based on what they know, what they think the student should know and what they think the student should teach later on. I think this type of course with its requirements is a way of teaching photography and being able to "level the playing field" or the teaching field. He could choose to teach a course on LF photography. That would also be elitist. Same for MF, digi, pinhole, whatever. He has chosen to go with manual SLR. Horrors!! I don't see the problem.
    Wesmore Digital
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  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by DBP
    Can we compromise on 'should'? Some people will never produce good photos no matter how much they know. Others do quite well with a point and shoot, within its limitations.
    I absolutely agree with that statement!

    On a more philosophical note, I have become a believer over the years, including some spent teaching and quite a few spent in training and mentoring roles, that a mastery of fundamentals will actually increase the interest and sense of accomplishment of the student.
    Once they have learned to 'make a joyful noise,' yes. I believe that attempting to impose structure, however well-meant, too early can be a big turn-off to the neophyte.

    Imagine this - a newbie hoves into view on APUG and innocently asks what the best way would be to process their own B&W negatives. After the eleventy-dozenth contradictory opinion, they throw their hands up and go back to C-41 chromogenic at the local high street shop. However, if given a basic set of tools, some D-76, fixer, and a scanner, and they discover the joys of fingertips that smell like fixer. Too much, too soon, and you lose them.

    In particular for the current generation of youth, who are accustomed to levels of convenience in some tasks that were inconceivable a quarter century ago, being able to point a lens at something and get a reasonable reproduction is something they assume is easy - and it is with any modern automated camera. Back when meters were handheld, doing even that much was a bit of an accomplishment. What gives the sense of achievement that will bring them back is learning how to more, and that requires learning to control the most basic part of the creative process, the image capture itself.
    I have no doubt that there are youthful offenders who will prefer to do it themselves, learning it the way grandpappy did, and who will groove on the process, the tools, and the control. Others (and I argue many others) will wonder why their photos, for all their work, don't look as good as the cell-phone snapshots that their buddy Ralph posts on Flickr.

    More and more, I find myself in conversations with kids in their teens and early twenties who approach me wanting to learn how to get into photography, and speak disparagingly of the modern wonders they have used. They don't approach me when I use an N50, but let me pull out something medium or large format, or a rangefinder, or even an old SLR, and they will walk over and ask a question.
    I don't doubt it. I guess I'm sneakier. If they want to use a point-n-shoot or an auto-everything SLR or a digicam, then come on in! When they bump up against the limitations of their tools, then we'll talk about what else they could do. Inclusive instead of exclusive. Instead of saying "you can't join our club unless you have the preferred tools," I'd say "come on in, we'll worry about the proper tools when and if the time comes that you want to know about them." First show 'em the magic - then show 'em how the trick works.
    Best,

    Wiggy

    Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by smileyguy
    I think that it is not an unreasoable requirement at all. This is not a university in the middle of nowhere (although some would argue that point...). For some students getting that new edition text IS the equivalent of a rare manuscript in terms of financial needs.
    It is not the cost, but the availability of mechanical, manual cameras that I would object to.

    For those who do not live in major cities - you might be surprised at what is available these days. I do not live 'in the middle of nowhere' (I can see it from where I am) but there are no camera stores within an hour's drive from me. The nearest used camera store that would have a mechanical camera is over an hour away, in Raleigh, NC. B&W film is only really available there or by mail-order, and most chemistry other than D-76 or Rodinal is only available from the 'net.

    What I mean to say is that mechanical cameras and B&W film are quickly vanishing from basic non-specialized retail stores of all sorts. I know we tend to think it's in every corner drugstore, but it isn't. That's not a 'film is dead' diatribe, that's plain unvarnished truth. It is easier to find a bowling alley than a camera store these days.
    Best,

    Wiggy

    Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote

  9. #29

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    Oh, come on, Wiggy.

    Years ago one of my girlfriends somehow acquired a meterless Nikon F and a normal lens and went out to take creative photographs. I asked her how she planned to get along without an exposure meter. Instead of telling me that with negative films "sunny 16" is good enough, she told me that she'd set the controls creatively. So she did, and she got a lot of unprintable negatives. Since then she's taken the trouble to learn the craft and now she's a pretty good photographer.

    Point is, there's art and there's craft. Without mastery of craft, art, whatever that means, is produced by lucky and unrepeatable accident. Aleatory art is just another sick joke.

    In addition, not all students of photography have art on their empty little minds. Some of them hope to earn their livings as commercial photographers. They'll starve if they can't produce what's required when its needed. In short, they need to master the craft.

    How people come to realize that they have to master the craft is an interesting question. But that serious photographers, be they artists or slaves to commerce, can't avoid it.

  10. #30

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    Wiggy, context. He's not teaching in your "middle of nowhere", he's teaching in Guelph. There ARE camera stores nearby that carry that stuff. That's why I say it's not an unreasonable requirement. He's not teaching EVERY course across North America, he's teaching HIS course at U of G.

    We're all saying the same thing. Fundamentals are good. Enjoying photography is good. Teaching is good. Taking pictures is good. Pressing buttons and experimenting is good. Playing is good. Learning is good. Film is good. Digital is good. Artistic is good. Craft is good. Mastery is good. Luck is good. Basics is good. Advanced knowledge is good. It's all good.

    Good?
    Wesmore Digital
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