Superman & Styrofoam Cups

Sometimes I am ashamed to admit that I have had my Nikon D60 SLR camera for close to three years now & am finally just learning how to use it…. properly. 

Nikon D60

Now, this is not to say that I have been taking horrible pictures for the last three years – I could just be taking better ones!   In my quest to keep myself busy while my husband, Colin, is away for work I decided to sign up for a photography course at the local college.  It was $95 for a six-week course & now that I’m five weeks into it, I can’t for the life of me figure out why I didn’t do this sooner!  I am already checking out the course calender for the next course to take. 

My course is called Digital Camera 1 (or something like that) & the first class was all about the basics of digital cameras & photography.  There were no restrictions on the type of camera one had to own in order to take this course & as a result my class features all kinds.  There are a number of digital SLR’s (other Nikon’s like mine as well as some Canon cameras), a few “point & shoots” & a few which are somewhere in between, the Nikon Coolpix camera, as an example. While I am happy to be learning how to properly use my D60, I have thought more than once that I should take the course again in order to learn how to get the most out of my little point & shoot.

Our instructor’s name is Adam & we are his first class although you would never know it.  He is confident & clear in his explanations & freely shares his own experiences & photos.  Now, I must admit that for some reason when I signed up for the class I had this vision of an older instructor who was teaching digital camera because he had to keep up with the times though he would rather still be shooting in film.  Needless to say, this is not Adam, who is probably not any older than I am.  In fact, he’s probably younger than me & the majority of the people in our class!  But I like this… he thinks outside of the box, is creative & has made learning about photography fun.  If you are interested, check out Adam’s work at

Every Tuesday night I head to the college for our two & a half hour class which usually seems more like half an hour.  I think I can speak for everyone in my class when I say the time flies by.  Two & a half hours never seems long enough to cover the topic of the week.  The time between classes also seems to fly by & I often find myself rushing around on Monday nights taking practice photos before the next class.  In fact, I have to say that I wish this course was twelve weeks long instead of only six.  This coming Tuesday will be our last class & I will be sad to see it end.  I could go to class every Tuesday & learn about photography & be perfectly happy.  Having not been a student for four & a half years now it is nice to be back in a classroom.  (Note: This is just a comment… although I do like being back in the classroom, I have no intentions of going back to it full-time).

It was during our second (or maybe third class) that Adam introduced diffusing the flash while taking photos & the styrofoam cup, which was to become our homemade flash diffuser.  It is amazing what a difference the diffuser could make.  Everyone in class was given their own styrofoam cup & told to practice.  While I was pleased with what I could do with my “styro diffuser,” I was even more amused by the reactions of my family when I pulled my “cup” out of my camera bag.  Thanksgiving dinner is a perfect exmaple.  I was taking my usual pictures of the table & testing how the pictures would turn out by alternating photos… one with the diffuser, one without.  My aunt Emily just laughed.  “Exactly what kind of camera class are you taking?” she asked.  My husband also tried to tell me that his eye was not “trained to see these differences like yours,” perhaps because he didn’t want to admit a little stryrofoam cup could produce such noticable results.  It was an amusing little exercise but I will say that I am hooked… that styrofoam cup is now a permanent accessory in my camera bag!

Nellie - Indoor Portrait

The next week our “homework” assignment was to take portraits, one indoor & one outdoor. Well, this is all fine & dandy if you actually have someone who can pose for you.  At my Gram’s birthday, Nellie was a willing participant but it was dark out & I could only focus on indoor portraits.  The next day while practicing outdoor photos I had to get a little more creative.  Seeing as how Colin wasn’t home & my Dad was back home for the weekend (my Dad stays at my house during the week for work) I had to use my imagination. It was Superman to the rescue.  Literally.  Colin has an eclectic collection of things… there is the creepy clown (sometime I will write more about him), the life-size (well, almost) sock monkey & a two foot tall Superman statue.  The Big S was as close to a real person as I was going to get.  So, there I was carting Superman around our yard snapping photos of him.

Superman - Outdoor Portrait

If our neighbours had seen me they likely would have thought I had gone completely crazy.  Superman was very cooperative & made for an excellent model.  A little humour never hurt anyone.

Superman – Outdoor Portrait 2

Our most recent classes focused on aperture & shutter speeds, which is what I was really interested in learning about.  I love taking photos at night & wanted to be able to take some of those great shots of fireworks & lightning.  Plus, there is a whole mode devoted each to aperture & shutter speed on the camera, so one has to assume this is important!

Headlights & Tailights - Slow Shutter Speed

I still have a lot of practicing to do, but at least now I have an understanding of how different apertures & shutter speeds will affect my photos & which settings are appropriate for different types of photos. 

Windmill - Motion Blur

Check back over the next little while as I post more examples.

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