Back to School!

Canon AE-1 Camera

I have an exciting announcement. Well, it’s exciting for me, we’ll see what you think. I am taking my very first photography class! The class is Basic Black and White Photography and I will be using my mom’s Canon AE-1 Program.

The last time I used this camera, I was in elementary school taking photos for 4-H. I guess the 4-H thing could be considered my first photography class but we didn’t learn much about camera operation other than point and shoot. And I was the only kid without a fully automatic camera, which of course I thought was terrible!

But I entered those 4-H photos in the fair and I won second or third place for a photo of the front end of my parents’ 1950 Studebaker Commander. The title of the photo was ‘1950 Stude’ and it was framed in a yellow mat. I don’t know what happened to it but I remember exactly what it looked like. If you looked closely at the photo, you could see my reflection in the chrome. I was kneeling down with the camera and was wearing a green Howard Bulldogs t-shirt (my elementary school). Strange the things we remember.

That was the end of my brief adolescent stint with photography. It took 20 years for me to pick it up again, but this time I think it’s gonna stick.

When I arrived at my sister’s house in November, she brought a box into the room and said, “do you want this?” It was my mom’s camera, complete with flash, three lenses, and all of the original boxes, paperwork, and instruction manuals. In the 9 years since my mom died, I had completely forgotten about the camera. My sister had taken it because at that time, she was more interested in photography than I was. But it has been sitting in storage and neither one of us has used it for years.

I had already been thinking about taking photography classes when I got back to the states but when my sister walked into the room with my mom’s camera, it was like everything had fallen into place. I got online and found out about the photography program at City College. I managed to enroll at the last minute and even got the out-of-state tuition fees waived. I had been waitlisted for the class because they were all full by the time I got registered. But as of yesterday, I am officially enrolled in the class. So here I am, 20 years later, taking my first photography class with the first camera I ever used.

Going back to film is a little daunting now that I’ve become so reliant on the instant gratification of digital cameras. But it’s also exciting because I know that learning the basics will make me a better digital photographer. And I can’t wait for our first day in the darkroom tomorrow!

  1. Elizabeth

    A photography class sounds so exciting! I hope to take one myself in the summer. i hope you will post from time to time about the things you are learning!

    2:15 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  2. HeyJules

    Nicole, if you need any lenses I’ve recently dug out my two old ones from my days with film…I used them with my AE-1 also so I know they’d work for you. I have a 50mm and a 70-300 (?) telephoto that I’d be willing to sell you cheap. If interested, throw me an email.

    2:50 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  3. The Q

    YAY! Good for you. I’d love to take a photography class someday.

    I already stalk your pics over on Flickr (and obviously here) so I can’t wait to see even more as you go 🙂

    P.S. I am absolutely in love with your dog Smack and your sister’s dog Wilbur. Ok, I can’t like…I love Thumbelina too (I have a short haired Tortie cat) 😉

    3:35 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  4. RecipeGirl

    Hey! Glad you’re back posting. Everything looks yummy. Best of luck in the photog. class!


    5:50 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  5. Sarah

    That is such a great story! Somewhere in my attic, I have my grandmother’s AE-1. I started to learn to use it a few years ago, but then got busy with other things. Someday I would love to take a class and really learn how to use it though.

    6:49 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  6. Vivian

    How jealous am I? SO jealous.

    8:20 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  7. bethany actually

    How exciting! Good luck, and have fun!

    8:33 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  8. Melissa

    oh! i’m un-lurking to say how completely envious i am of you! i have my grandfather’s AE-1 that i don’t really know how to use but i pretend that i do because i love it so much.
    i have always wanted to take a photography class, for as long as i can remember but for some reason it never works out.
    how exciting for you!! i hope you keep us updated on what you learn in class, it really does sound like everything fell into place. i love when that happens.

    8:48 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  9. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    Ack, film! I would definitely be intimidated to go back to film – I did save my old Rebel G “just in case” – I love the story with your mom’s camera. We look forward to your tips 😀

    9:14 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  10. Anali

    I would love to take a photography class too. One of these days… : )

    10:56 pm  Jan 29th, 2008
  11. Angela

    How cool! I had hoped to take a photography class before I moved overseas but it didn’t work out. I hope you’ll share some of the tips and tricks you learn. Good luck!

    12:50 am  Jan 30th, 2008
  12. Nancy

    Wow – what an exciting post! Enjoy your course – I’m sure you will.

    I think as we get older we have more patience for photography. When I was a teenager I just wanted instant results, but I get a great deal more pleasure from photography now that I am older and have slowed down a little!

    6:10 am  Jan 30th, 2008
  13. Joe

    Well, based on your current photographic skill, this class should be a walk in the park.



    6:41 am  Jan 30th, 2008
  14. Ruby

    Hey Nicole, I’m so happy for you! What an exciting adventure your embarking on!
    Have lots of fun, hope you learn lots. 🙂

    7:54 am  Jan 30th, 2008
  15. Christy

    How exciting! I have looked into taking a photography class in the past, but haven’t quite got around to it yet 🙂 Have fun!

    11:08 am  Jan 30th, 2008
  16. Nicole

    Elizabeth: I’m sure I’ll be posting photos throughout the term so you can see my progress 🙂

    HeyJules: Oooh, thanks! I may actually be interested in the 70-300mm, I’ll e-mail you about it later.

    The Q: As I’m sure you know, I love your dog too 🙂

    RecipeGirl: Thanks!

    Sarah: Just hold on to it, I’m sure you’ll come back to it someday!

    Vivian: 🙂

    Bethany Actually: Thanks, I’m having fun already!

    Melissa: That’s so cool that you have your grandfather’s camera. My husband has his grandfather’s camera also and is hoping that I’ll show him how to use it after this class. I hope you get to take a class soon!

    Sara: 🙂

    Anali: I’m sure it’ll happen!

    Angela: Well you’ll just have to do what I did…learn as much as you can on your own then take a class when you get back 🙂

    Nancy: I know what you mean. Although I’m still impatient, I’m getting better. I’m hoping this class will help me to slow down a bit more.

    Joe: Thanks 🙂

    Ruby: I’m excited, too 🙂 Now maybe I can get some cool photos in Yosemite this summer if you guys invite me camping once or twice 😉

    Christy: I’ve been wanting to do it for a while but didn’t speak Italian well enough to take a class in Sicily. I’m excited that I got into a class so quickly here in San Diego!

    1:48 pm  Jan 30th, 2008
  17. Natalie Sztern

    I did this about 6 years ago with a manual Nikon which was black and white. Prepare yourself for the cost…darkroom fees and products especially the paper is F***ing expensive. It is becoming a lost art now with Digital, but now learning digital and photoshop – i prefer the good old days

    2:04 pm  Jan 30th, 2008
  18. Cynthia

    Exciting times lie ahead. When I first started in photography I used film. I still have my Nikon 34mm which is in mint condition. Keep us updated on your progress,

    6:58 pm  Jan 30th, 2008
  19. Corinne

    What fun! You’ll love the class i’m sure! I have been wanting to take a photography class for years — maybe someday!

    10:18 pm  Jan 30th, 2008
  20. Susan

    This is just the kick-start I need to return to my old Pentax ME (?), purchased for a trip to Africa 30 years ago and now sidelined by digital. Thanks! And keep us up on both what you are learning AND what you are shooting.

    8:11 am  Jan 31st, 2008
  21. Andrea

    Yipee!! I wanted to take a photography class so bad, but all they had were college classes and they were like 5 hours a day. So happy for you though!!

    1:30 pm  Jan 31st, 2008
  22. renee

    oh how wonderful and special! i am so excited for you! just the other day, i started to really understand aperture. i hope to one day enroll in a class like yours. you go girl!

    5:01 pm  Jan 31st, 2008
  23. VeggieGirl

    oh I THOROUGHLY enjoyed all my photography courses back in high school – a lot of work, but so much fun and very rewarding/worthwhile!! good luck, Nicole, and enjoy!! :0)

    5:09 pm  Jan 31st, 2008
  24. scottb

    I think I learned on the same camera (or very close cousin to it) I lived in the darkroom my Sr. year of High School and Freshman year of college. Was the photo editor as a freshman – which basically helped me get over the photo bug! Was a good time though, back in the pre-digital days.

    7:23 pm  Feb 1st, 2008
  25. David

    I still use film along side my digital. In certain situations, film is a much better choice than digital, especially in low light and very bright conditions. And, a film camera is much more rugged than a digital. You’ll do great in your photography class.

    12:20 pm  Feb 3rd, 2008
  26. leslie

    Oh, Nicole!! My very first camera is a canon AE1. I love it so much. That’s what I used for my first photog class. I am actually looking into taking some more classes too.
    Good luck, it will be so much fun

    8:58 pm  Feb 3rd, 2008
  27. Evie

    Nicole, that’s so exciting!!! I borrowed my sister’s film Rebel because it can use the same lenses as mine and I have yet to use the thing because I’m afraid to waste the film!! I can’t wait to read and see what photos you take with that camera. Have fun in your class!

    1:11 pm  Feb 5th, 2008
  28. Maryann

    You must be naturally talented then, because your photography is amazing 🙂

    8:46 pm  Feb 5th, 2008
  29. janelle

    COOL, I am salivating at the thought of photography classes. I am falling more and more in love with photos… speaking of which, next (probably monday) I am posting your mini cheesecake recipe AND sending people over to your site to look at YOUR photo because, well, your photo is gorgeous:)…

    By the way, they were YUM.

    11:18 am  Feb 7th, 2008
  30. Nicole

    Natalie: You aren’t kidding! This is turning out to be a very expensive class! Luckily community college tuition in California is very very reasonable and we get several hours a week in the darkroom as part of the class. But equipment/film/paper costs are already getting out of control! 🙂
    Cynthia: I’ll do my best to keep you guys updated on what we’re learning. Right now I’m feeling completely lost in the darkroom! I’ll have some of my first prints by next week and I’ll scan a few and put them up here.
    Corinne: You’ll just have to take a night class at FCC one of these days. I think you’d really like it! And I’m sure someone in the family has a manual 35mm camera you could borrow (NOT MINE!) hahaha 🙂
    Susan: I hope you do dig that old camera out. It’s been a lot of fun so far!
    Andrea: Hopefully you can find a class that’s a bit less time consuming. My class meets twice a week for 3 hours each class. Of course we have to spend quite a bit of time behind the camera when we’re not in class, too.
    Renee: This class is really helping me to get a better grasp on exposure. Everything is finally starting to click!
    VeggieGirl: Thanks!
    ScottB: I really wish I would have done this in high school or my first round of college! But like I said in my post, I guess this is the time in life that I’m supposed to be learning this 🙂
    David: Thanks for the vote of confidence! I think I’ll eventually do the same, use both film and digital side by side. 🙂
    Leslie: Now that I’m getting used to this camera, I’m really enjoying it! It felt strange to be switching cameras after using my digital one for so long but this one is starting to feel good in my hands. And, like David said, this camera is much more rugged than my digital. I’m really glad I’m able to use it for this class!
    Evie: I have the 35mm Rebel Ti and most of my lenses are interchangeable between that and my digital. Once I get comfortable using this older Canon, I’ll probably switch back to the modern one. I just wanted to force myself to use only manual controls and focusing during this first class 🙂
    Maryann: Thanks so much! It just comes from lots of reading, lots of studying other photos on flickr and food blogs, and asking lots of questions to other foodbloggers/food photographers 🙂
    Janelle: Thanks! Which mini cheesecakes did you make? The cherry cheesecake photo was one of the first food photos I took that I really really liked 🙂 It seems like so long ago but I guess it hasn’t been that long!

    12:09 pm  Feb 7th, 2008
  31. mari

    HI there, I found you through the very awesome Bloglily. Well, I’m excited that you’re going to study photography. I think I need to take some classes and I was thinking that it would be better to take a class in ‘traditional’ photography to better understand the real fundamentals (aperture, film speed and so on). I still have my first camera, a cute little Olympus OMG which I put aside once I got a digital camera. But now I’m occasionally at a loss about how to use my newest digi-camera with all its bells and whistles. Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading about your photography adventures. best, m

    2:05 pm  Feb 9th, 2008
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