Photo Takin'

I am still sad it's not the weekend anymore. And yes, I'm aware that it's Tuesday. The thing is, I had such a busy weekend and it went by so fast that I felt like I never even had a weekend! Friday, I worked until almost 6pm, then gave a friend a ride that was really out of my way. Needless to say, I didn't get home until almost 7pm! I curled on a single couch cushion and fell fast asleep until 8:30. I was exhausted.

Then, on Saturday I went to the pumpkin patch with the little boy I used to nanny and my friend and her nephew (who is my other friend's son...I'm friends with these three, awesome sisters). It was a blast, but totally exhausting. I picked him up at 10am and I brought him home at 4pm, then I stayed and visited for a couple of hours and held their teeny, tiny new baby. It was seriously like holding a sack of flour. It's unreal that we all started out so small! Blows my mind every time I hold a newborn. Again, I came home and collapsed, this time in bed. I slept for three hours.

Finally, on Sunday, I woke up early to head east to the Chicago Photography Center, where I took an all day film photography class. A while back, I bought a Groupon for any one of the bootcamps that the CPC offers and I finally cashed it in on Sunday. I've wanted to upgrade to a DSLR for a while, but told myself that I couldn't do that until I took a photography class. I figured it was in my best interest to learn how to get the most out of a DSLR before investing over a month's rent into one. The CPC offers a few different bootcamps, but when I saw the film photography one, I jumped for joy.

The thing is, I always wanted to take photography, even in high school. But I didn't dare do it because, well, to be blunt, photography is an expensive hobby. I never felt comfortable asking my mother to purchase a camera for me and in college I was too broke to buy my own. I always thought I had a good eye for images and balance. I felt like I've seen so many beautiful things that would have made gorgeous photographs, but couldn't do anything about them except admire them since I had no money for a camera.

In high school, during our annual student interest week, where you could take various mini-courses that interested you, I took the photography class. It was really a brief lecture on photography. I had so many questions, but was told by the photography teacher that I really should take a course because there was no way I could really learn the answer to all my questions without taking a course. That, of course, was something I knew I couldn't do. So, I took what little information I walked away with and borrowed a camera from a friend and shot a roll of film. I couldn't keep the camera beyond a week, so I didn't get much in the way of practice. In fact, most of the pictures were blurry and not very good (see exhibit A below). Still, there was one photo that made me not give hope (see exhibit B below). That made me decide that when I could afford it, I would take on photography as a hobby.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

In 2009, I bought my first SLR. After doing a lot of research, I decided that the best film SLR for me to learn on would be the classic Canon AE-1. After doing a lot of eBay stalking, I paid a mere $35 for a beautiful, Canon AE-1, along with two lenses, and a flash pack. That's right, people. I'm awesome. But when the camera arrived, I was too unsure of what I was doing (and a little out of practice with film), so it sat, unused for almost two years.

About three years ago, though, I purchased a digital camera that was somewhere between a point and shoot and a DSLR, meaning that it had lots of manual features, but you couldn't go completely manual. I bought the camera so that I could learn a bit more about photography, but it wasn't until last year when I took a photo safari class that I really learned how to operate and use the camera to its full potential.

So, fast forward twelve years from high school, and I think I can finally say that photography is one of my hobbies, especially since I finally took a film photography class! The class was small with only seven people. This certainly wasn't an extensive course, but it was still pretty intensive. Since I shoot fairly exclusively on manual now on my semi-DSLR, I was pretty familiar with the language of f-stop and shutter speed. I'm never great at the correlation between the two, but I get better at understanding the limits every day. This knowledge and practice made the beginning part of class a lot easier for me. After I got used to using the (heavy) film camera with no digital feedback, I felt pretty confident about the shots I was getting. Of course, there was always the possibility that the pictures turned out to be total duds, but I still felt like I was getting some good stuff.

I walked down Lincoln Ave. towards St. Alphonsus church with a couple of the girls from class. We split up there and I wandered around Lincoln Ave, taking pictures of the church and various old buildings on Lincoln. Eventually I met up with another classmate. We walked down to the Paulina Brown Line stop and I took some shots under the El tracks.

The second half of class was spent learning how to process film (lots of gentle shaking and chemistry) and then learning how to develop the negatives in the darkroom (patience and precision). The whole thing gives you gratitude for modern technology and things like one hour photo machines! It's tedious and can easily go wrong, but I loved it. We made contact sheets for our negatives and then we got to make two prints. I snuck in a third, which was nice, though of course I now wish I had developed a different image. Rats.

My contact sheets from class
Anyway, I probably won't get the opportunity to be in a dark room any time soon, but I'm so glad I took the class. I feel a lot more confident about my photography skills. Not only was I able to give some of my classmates help/feedback, but the teacher loved one of my photos. My negatives were also definitely some of the best, in terms of consistency with exposure. I didn't have any shots that were too bright or too dark, a common initial error with at least half of the class. Instead, what frustrated me was the balance of some of my shots. Still, I think I ended up with a good amount of fairly decent shots and a couple of really good ones. Don't get me wrong. I'm not Ansel Adams. But it made me realize can finally count photography as a real hobby, something I do and am actually decent at (and only getting better!).

I'm excited to use the Canon AE-1 some more, though the next batch of photos I take I'll have to get developed. I've got a project I'd like to try out before the end of the year. I promise I'll keep you posted! In the mean time, enjoy my three prints from yesterday's class. The first two were my best and the third I wanted to print because I wanted to see what it looked like since I worked for a while to get that shot. Instead I wish I'd printed another photo of a shopping cart next to the church.

Under the Paulina Brown Line Tracks
The stairs of St. Alphonsus (this was the one my teacher liked)
A planter on the street. (I loved the textures in this photo.)

(All Photos by me!)


  1. I took a photo course when I was 15, unfortunately it was more oriented on dark room techniques than on taking good pictures, and nowadays, well... no dark room! I wish I knew how to snap better with my digital Canon!

  2. Great job! I love the columns on the stairs.

  3. @Musing: I don't know if they have photo safaris in your neck of the world, but you should check it out! I learned so much, but more specifically, I learned how to use my own camera. I rarely shoot on automatic now. And I'm itching for a DSLR!

    @Marisa: Thanks! I'm by no means a professional, but I think I did alright for my first film class. : )


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