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My ABCs of Photography: Robert Alsop

By: Robert Alsop

A Humber Continuing Education Student’s Journey through Photography

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Humber Photography Student: Robert Alsop

I had purchased an entry level DSLR camera and wanted to learn more about digital photography. I ended up taking photography courses offered through the Humber College Continuing Education (CE) Studies.

First, this is what I consider my ABC’s of photography.

A is for Auto

Like most beginners I set the camera to “Auto” for the first year and let the camera choose all the settings for me; everything from iso, auto focus, to exposure and shutter speed.

The Auto setting works well on for average scenes to document travel photos, family and events.  Average scenes equal average photos and I wanted to take better photos.

B is for bewilderment

I had done film photography in the past but was bewildered by the variety of dial symbols and on-screen menu settings. Today’s DSLRs are more computerized image processors than camera. I found a book on my specific model of DSLR at the library and I took it out at least 6 times figuring out the menu features and dials on my camera.

C is for creativity.

Focus to create. I take a lot of photos. I evaluate the ones I am pleased with and reject ones that don’t work. Feedback is important and I go back to my images I have favoured over time compared to those more recent and can see where I have improved.

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What draws you to photography?

What draws me to digital photography is finding a composition that is interesting, and the being able to adjust light, tone and exposures, for impact. If I see part of a landscape that has some potential on my day-to-day travels, I will return with my camera at a specific time of day for lighting conditions in mind to explore and experiment.

I have been a video editor for 15 years in broadcast and corporate video and was looking for something similar in retirement. Photography is similar but at a slower pace.

I strive to have my photos tell a story. What I have learned through my experience at Humber that there are good images, but great images connect emotionally.

Landscapes of mountains can make a fantastic image but create more impact if you include a person or an object of interest for the viewer to connect with.

Capturing an image is one half of the process. The other half is post editing to enhance the composition to complete the story. In the days of darkroom printing, dodging and burning was standard to draw the eye to important elements of the photograph. Today, with digital files the same techniques are employed with software.

What is your favourite style to shoot?

I spend a lot of time setting up still-life photos of flowers. I registered for the Humber CE Macro photography course. Part of the field trips were at the on-campus Humber Arboretum and a great place for nature photography. In the macro class, the instructor included a range of advanced photo techniques including focus, lighting, composition and settings that furthered my expertise level in photography.

Macro photography has led me to seeing another world of nature.  I approach the challenge of flowers, insects and patterns to fill the frame as portraits. Best of all, I can explore and set-up my camera gear in my garden just outside my door. I don’t have to carry my tripod very far to discover something new throughout the seasons.

I remember at the time, purchasing a macro lens that cost more than my camera! Was I crazy? Now it’s my favorite go-to lens.

In addition, I do a great deal of event photography for volunteer organizations I belong to. I am frequently asked to photograph presentations, awards and guest speakers. One example is sport photography covering the finish line of the annual marathon Adventure Relay organized by the Oak Ridges Trail Association.  This is a photo challenge as the runners in the 160 km relay end well after sunset and involves flash photography to capture the action.

How long did it take for you to feel confident in your work?

The best part of the photography courses is the collective experience where you share your photos. I am in a class with a like-minded group of photographers, that provide additional resources and real time feedback on your work. Class assignments have pushed me to try different forms of photography. Critical analysis of my images in class allowed me to improve. I have become more experienced with practice. I take photos on a regular basis and pretty much worn off most of the rubber grips on my original DSLR from use.

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Describe your Humber experience.

My first photography course at Humber was in Adobe Lightroom. I wanted to learn how to organize and catalog all my digital media. I thought I would be the “only senior” in the class, but to my surprise there were many similar people of my age taking the course.

I explored the Continuing Education programs at the surrounding area colleges. What attracted me to Humber was the variety of CE photo course including lighting, nature and black and white photography.  The Adobe Lightroom didn’t require a prerequisite of an intro course and had the bonus of on-campus open parking in the evening at the time.

Do you have any advice for students learning photography at Humber?

Photography combines technical skill with artistic expression. The CE photography courses at Humber challenges students to be creative using use more advance photographic techniques to achieve success. Become familiar with all the functions of your camera. Being nimble with your camera settings allows you to focus on achieving images you are pleased with.

As a photo enthusiast, the competition is with yourself to improve.  Over time I can now see a style developing with my photographs. I am more critical in evaluating my photos in what works and does not in selecting favorites or rejecting what to keep. I have had photos selected for my local municipality calendar, selected in the Toronto Star’s digital edition, and for a time, at McMichael Canadian Art Gallery in Kleinburg as part of a touring collection of landscapes with the Ontario Greenbelt Foundation.

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Image by: Robert Alsop submitted for Humber 2018 Photo Contest

Check out Robert’s photos on Instagram.

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