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Published: September 18th 2015
Over the five years I have owned my camera I have really developed an interest in photography and taught myself how to use some of the manual functions. I have been happy with some of the results but also frequently disappointed. For a couple of years I have wanted to take some tuition to ensure that I am covering all of the right things. Since we had some time to spare in Cape Town and a very favourable exchange rate, it was the perfect opportunity.
I searched for courses online and found some suitable ones but then contacted the organisations and many didn't reply. The one that did reply, Martin Osner
, looked amazing but unfortunately their dates didn't work because we had plans with the family. I did another search and came up with the Cape Town School of Photography
who had an intensive one week course at the beginning of September. I tried to submit an application online but couldn't get the form to work. I also didn't have the appropriate means to make a payment in South Africa. I emailed to ask if I could pop in to make the arrangements and got a really friendly reply to say I could.
couple of days later I had the car whilst Lindsey was busy with something else. I drove into the city, my first time doing so alone, and got lost almost immediately. I was full of a cold so it wasn't easy to think straight and the streets looked nothing like the map I had on Google Maps. After over an hour of driving in circles I finally found the Castle which was a key landmark on my quest. I parked and continued on foot. It took me a few minutes to get to the right block and then I spent the next 40 minutes wandering around the block to no avail. There was no sign at all of the photo school. The building I thought it should be housed in was covered in scaffolding and didn't look occupied. I had no mobile phone, no way of accessing the internet, and my head was spinning so I gave up and went home.
Frustrated, I was ready to give up but fortunately Lindsey made me persevere. We went into town again the following week and together we went back, this time with a source of data available. Google led us back
to the same building, only this time there was no scaffolding. There was still no sign of the school but we went in and spoke to the security guard who told us to go to the fourth floor. We went upstairs and met Sandy, one of CTSP's staff, who was buzzing with energy. We completed the formalities and I used my credit card to pay. When we went to the shops later I discovered that I had left my credit card in the machine so had to go back. Fortunately they were expecting me!
The day of the first lesson dawned. I was a bit nervous as I had never really pursued such a creative endeavour. What would it be like? Who would the other people be? Would I be good enough? I pushed through the doubts though and went for my first lesson. I had nothing to fear... The other participants were lovely and I was able to do it. Greg Hillyard
, the tutor, was really good, he knew his stuff and adopted a suitable pace. I'd had my camera longer than the others so knew a lot of what he was teaching. However there was enough in the
course that I didn't know so that my interest was generally maintained.
The course was a good mixture of class-room based learning about the technical aspects of photography and practical application. Over four days we learnt how to selectively focus, how to ensure correct exposure, about using depth of field and blurring to show motion, about light sources and how to use a flash. Aside from the technical aspects of photography we also looked at visual literacy - considering the elements of many photographs to understand what story they were telling and how the composition helped to understand it. This was the bit I found both most difficult and most interesting. The other component was a set of assignments to put it all into practise. Given the intensive nature of the course, these were very time pressured. We also had to get the pictures printed which was a hassle. The assignments themselves were helpful though and it was really good to share the pictures as a class and discuss them.
The final day of the course was spent at the Waterfront on a practical assignment. I walked to the Waterfront from the station in town which took about
half an hour. It was really interesting as I walked past the ship yard and saw some photos I wouldn't even have considered at the beginning of the week. Now I could see the picture, get the correct exposure and focus where I wanted in the scene. It was really satisfying to see how my photography had grown in just four lessons. We spent the afternoon photographing in various situations. Firstly we had to use four statues as the subjects for portraits. I found the subject matter quite boring but it did reinforce many of the things we'd done through the week. I started looking for creative compositions of the subjects. After that exercise we wandered through the Dry Dock, the Marina and a couple of indoor markets. The challenge was to get good shots in widely different settings and conditions. It was fun but also exhausting, especially as it was the hottest day of the year so far. At the end of the day we sat around chatting but then all left early, exhausted, but all glad we'd done the course together.
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