East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Learning photography, again!

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And so I went and enrolled in a new MOOC.
Fact is, you see, I’ve spent a few days (and nights!) going around carrying my trusty old  camera, and I took lots of photos. And I realized I have lost my touch.
Not that I was ever a star photographer, but I was pretty good, for a self-taught amateur. In the time when cameras still packed a roll of film, I shot in black and white (it was cheaper), and I had lots of fun. I used a Nikkormat EL, back then, and I had studied a lot of photo books and courses and handbooks1. Boy, I loved that camera. An artifact from a more civilized time.


Later, after the Nik was stolen (bastards!) I moved on to a digital SRL camera I bought with the money I earned with my first courses. The Canon Digital Rebel XT – aka Canon 350D – was the best my money could buy. And that was fun too. The Canon, with a motley array of lenses I bought through the years, is still my shooting iron of choice2.

I don’t use a cell phone to take photos – but I do have a small point-and-click for when I’m traveling light.


But now, I spent over five years without seriously touching my SLR and I am rusty, cramped, helpless and bad. Can’t remember two thirds of the presets (that’s the reason why I needed that handbook). But there’s more, and it’s not just memory. It’s muscle memory, it’s instinct: I waste too much time setting up the shot, I miss the beat and lose the perfect photograph. My shots are skewed and out of focus.

People have changed, too.
Back when I walked about with my analog camera, taking somebody’s photograph was a good way to start a conversation. They would smile, strike a pose, laugh, ask questions, or simply wave hello.
Today, people put a hand in front of their face shouting “No photo!” like they think they are George Clooney, or they insult you, or they flip you the bird. Two days back I was shooting a beautiful garden, standing on the opposite pavement, and the master of the house unleashed his three dogs at me.

But social weirdness apart, I’m rusty as hell.
Selezione_014And so I thought, why not take a course and refresh the basics, while I take every opportunity to use my camera?
And so I did a quick search online, and found a nice, well-rounded course offered by the Australian RMIT University, through the Open2Study platform.
The course is called The Art of Photography and it looks promising.
Four weeks of course, and in the end I get a certificate. It starts in a few hours.


The course will help, but it’s also a good excuse to keep shooting every day, in the weirdest situations. You eat and sleep with your camera, that’s the idea.

And it is also a good way for me to take a vacation from the lots of work I’ll need to be doing in the next weeks – I’m editing two anthologies, I’m the editor in chief of a new line of books and I’m writing a novel… Plus occasional translations, actually the only work that was paid in advance – which is reason enough to celebrate, and do the job fast and good.
So I’ll be doing office hours, here at the PC, hammering away – some distraction after work will be much needed. Something to set my brain on completely different courses.
And it will be a nice way to test a new MOOC platform – because my brother used Open2Learn in the past, but for me it’s the first time.
It will be good.

And you out there?
What will you be doing this August to keep the stress at bay?

  1. I might do a “five best photo books” post… what do you say? 
  2. well, iron… it’s mostly carbonium and aluminum, but it’s ok, really… 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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