I used to shoot in "Automatic“ mode on my dSLR camera, but I always knew that I was leaving lots of potential untapped.
My dream was to someday acquire all the skills necessary to shoot striking portraits, macros and cityscapes. I always admired those photographers who know how to use just the right settings to produce blurry backgrounds or crisp shots at events - even in low light situations without a flash.
Then, I discovered the Viewfinder Center in Zürich.
Viewfinder Center is the brainchild of Matt Anderson, an American photographer who has been living in Switzerland since 2008. With Switzerland's first English speaking photography school, Matt and his team are offering just the kinds of classes that people like me are yearning for.
I signed up the the popular dSLR 1-2-3 digital photography course which is taught on three Saturdays from 10 AM to 4:30 PM. Matt's school is centrally located in Zürich, and the neighborhood offers plenty of opportunities to practice photography.
On the first day of class, I find myself among a small group of like-minded people. We quickly find out that we all share a common goal, namely how to get the most out of our dSLR cameras. Matt's curriculum includes a combination of theory, small group assignments and practical tasks outdoors. The set of handouts is impeccable, covering all the basics of photography: An overview of cameras/lenses/tripods, what aperture/shutter speed/ISO settings are all about, what to look for in composition, how to manipulate exposure, or how to set the white balance.
Notice how my camera is set to the "A" aperture priority mode?
Matt is not just a talented photographer, but also a genuine instructor. Studying in such an environment is fun - and time flies!
The second day of class takes place a couple weeks later, and it feels good to see the familiar faces of my classmates again. Meanwhile, we were working on a homework assignment involving shutter speed and aperture settings, and Matt puts up everyone's pictures on the big screen. Thanks to his compliments and the candid feedback, we learn a lot from each other's photographs.
On the last day, we get the chance to put everything we have learned into practice. The exposure triangle is key, and understanding how it can be manipulated allows me to unfold my creative desires for any given photograph. As part of various assignments, we practice how to freeze the action, show the flow of time or take someone's portrait with depth of field and just the right amount of light.
Can you imagine how much fun we have had while snapping this silly runner? (That's our instructor, Matt!)
Photography excursions all over the world.
For training sessions, Matt Anderson will take adventurous participants to the world's photography hotspots. For instance, a small group has recently returned from a trip to Tromso in Norway where they learned to capture the fascinating Northern Lights – and more than one reindeer.
As for me, I am going to sign up for a course on night photography next. I have always wanted to capture a perfect photograph of Zürich when all the lights are on...