I'm on Cape Cod right now, finishing up my week long photography class at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. This is my third Summer teaching at Castle Hill, and it's always such a rewarding and relaxing teaching experience. This Summer's class is all about natural lighting portraiture- a class I've taught in Berkeley and San Francisco before. This is a change in direction from my usual class for Fine Art Pet Photographers, but I'm really enjoying having a range of photographers, experience levels, and subject matter with this group of students.
I challenged my 10 students on the first day of class to turn their cameras to the dreaded 'M' mode (MANUAL!!), shoot everything 'in camera' (NO CROPPING!!), and create their own exposures (OMG!!). People are always a bit shocked when I present these requests, but eventually everyone gets excited, their eyes brighten, they jump up and down with their cameras as they realize what APERTURE really means, how to use SHUTTER SPEED, and holy cow- how easy it is to photograph in the shade. It's an exciting experience for everyone, myself included.
Why do I always push my students to shoot on manual mode? Simply because it slows them down. It makes them stop and think- which in our age of fast paced automatic rapid fire digital cameras and computers and 'apps' is a fairly revolutionary concept. Slowing down and bringing intentionality back into their fine art practices turns their whole worlds around, and that is a very good thing. I like to equate it with the 'Slow Food Movement' which was all the rage recently. Why were chefs choosing to grow their own vegetables, hunt their own meat, make their own butter and forge their own knives? It was confusing at first to many people, but to me it made incredible sense. Of course an artist should be fully in control of their art, of their practice, and of their tools. The closer they became to their creative process, the slower they worked, the longer it took to grow a salad and then pluck the salad and then wash the salad and then plate the salad- the better the salad was. Because they were also growing themselves as artists, and putting themselves into their art physically. Slow food is the opposite of fast food, just as putting your camera on 'manual' is the opposite of 'auto expose.' And you know what- it makes for a higher quality product, a better story, a more well-rounded piece of artwork, and deeper appreciation for the craft.