Katier,

Get Steve Simmons book, or Leslie Stroebel's book, of maybe Jim Stone's (?) book - never seen the last one. All these are good reading for learning the view camera. Simmon's book is basic, Stroebel's book is advanced.

Read up and you'll have a leg up in the field if you don't have a mentor. A lot of us are self taught, but it isn't the most efficient way to learn when you have time constraints as you do in taking a course.

Onr thing to keep in mind is that although you can get everything in a plane in focus, a lot of scenes have "depth" to them, and stopping down is the only cure. A simple example is photographing a tree from a moderate distance with a foreground rock. You can get the top of the tree and the rock in focus, but not the bottom of the tree because it isn't in the same plane as the rock and tree top.

Dry fire the shutter before pulling the dark slide. If the aperture is open for viewing (as in you got in a hurry and forgot to close it), the shutter will not fire. Saves some film.

Set the camera up when you have time to play with it, and play with it. See what effects movements have on a scene you've composed. See how much rise/shift, etc your lens(es) can take so you know their limitations. Make sure the camera is working properly, movements lock, bellows good (test them in the dark with a flashlight on the inside), and that the lens board lock works smoothly and properly so you don't drop lenses. Clean everything so you don't have dust issues.

Cheers,

Steve