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Paying Forward: Why I enjoy teaching photography

August 18, 2017

I've never taken a single class on photography. One day I found an old film Nikon in my fathers closet. I asked him if I could have it and he said yes.  I remember running through rolls of film writing down the settings that I used so I could remember them when I got the pictures back. It would take weeks before I could save up the money I needed to have the film developed and even then it would take a few days. 

 

Through trial and error I taught myself how to harness the light, and create images on film that were worth showing off.  I look back now at the pictures that I took and I have to laugh. They really weren't that great. But at the time, they were good enough to give me the bug...i had officially become a shutter bug! 

 

Years later I would get into digital cameras, and learn how to use software tools to do the same thing I was learning to do in the darkroom, only digitally. There was one technique that really attracted me, High Dynamic Range photography, or HDR.  

 

A friend of a friend was doing it and his pictures were amazing!  I sent him an email once asking him if he could teach me how he was making those amazing photographs.  His short response was simply, "Lot's of beer and late nights!". 

 

I read that and my first thought was, "Jerk!".  These days he likes a lot of my photos on Facebook, so I can hardly hold a grudge.  I suppose I caught him on a bad night. 

 

But that experience made me think.  The art of photography is so amazing, yet it is so easy to become comfortable in a style or genre.  What better way to keep challenging the limits of the art form by sharing all your knowledge and knowhow with the shutter bug community, thereby forcing yourself to learn even more, and push your own limits beyond even where you thought you could go. 

 

I started surrounding myself with actual photography mentors.  Great teachers like Frank Ruggles, and the always entertaining Serge Ramelli. One of my favorite stories about Frank is that out of the blue one week he emailed me, remembering an off the cuff comment I made months before about wanting to learn how to take Milky Way photographs.  He invited me to his cabin in the heart of the Shenandoah Mountains for an overnight of star light photography.  It was just me and one of the greatest national park photographers of our generation, in the middle of the pitch black woods... a personal one on one workshop on milky way photography.  I was so honored that he took this time with me.  And he didn't charge me a dime! 

 

Because of the mentors who have given so much of their art to me, I am committed to encouraging and teaching all I know to anyone willing to listen.  Something I am very proud of is that this September I will be teaching for the 5th year in a row, a nature digital photography class at a popular Girl Scouts of America retreat.  My class is always the first to fill and every year I get to teach 30-40 incredibly creative kids the art of photography. 

 

I set up this page because I would like to start sharing what I have learned over the years. I would also like to highlight my mentors, and promote some of the "up and coming" shutter bugs that are - in many cases - outshooting me! :-) 

 

Enjoy shooting, promote the arts, and thank you for being a fan! 

 

Gene 

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