Cheesin' for the Camera with Jersey City's JC Art School

I'm kind of a liar. I keep saying I'm going to update you on my One Goal Per Month progress, and I haven't... and it's almost March already... and this post isn't even going to update you on my progress either. But it does introduce month three of this endeavor: photography month. I actually have a lot of insights to share from the first two months of One Goal Per Month, but that will have to wait. Hopefully not long, as I plan to carve out some time to blog in the Costa Rican jungle next week (I'm alway super inspired to write in Pura Vida-land, so keep your fingers crossed).

But what cannot wait one more moment is sharing my experience at Jersey City Art School's Digital Photography workshop with Adrien De Martini last weekend (I wanted to title this post, "YO, ADRIEN!" but decided that was a little played), which is a course that breaks down how to use your SLR.

First of all, the Love of My Life bought me a Canon SLR camera the Christmas before the World's Cutest Human was born. That would be Christmas 2012 and means that I've had a camera for two years that I don't know how to use (I'm not a big pick-up-the-manual-and-teach-myself kind of gal). It's the nicest gift he, or most anyone, has ever given me. It's high class and kick ass, though you wouldn't know it from the vast collection of photos I've taken on the "automatic" setting. Actually, the trained eye would definitely know it. While they are beautiful because it's a high class, kick ass camera, they lack the depth and personality of a real human behind the lens. That all ended last weekend.

Prior to last weekend, I thought those photos were great and sometimes even thought to myself, "who needs the settings? This is good enough." I have a lot of lazy thoughts like that, but as usual, I digress.

The first thing Adrien told us is that we will never use the automatic setting again. Ever. While I would typically huff at him, I actually took his words to heart. Because I was in the class for a reason. In fact, my Love bought the camera for a reason, which is that I love photos. I love to look at photos and I love to take photos. Love, love, love. Like, I'm annoying. You'll routinely find him half a football field ahead of me on vacation (or everyday life), because I've stopped to photograph something.

But I don't know what I'm doing. According to him, "I just have an eye." (Thanks for the ego boost, amor!) But as I told him between the Saturday and Sunday classes, my eye has been broken and needs to be re-built, along with the muscle memory in all of my fingers, according to what I just learned.

The photography workshop at Jersey City Art School is a two mid-day weekend ordeal from 10 AM-1 PM each day. On the first day, Adrien broke down the basics, from shutter speed to aperture, white balance to metering, and ISO to composition. It was a lot of info, but somehow I absorbed it (at least on a surface level as much as I can without much.much.more.practice).

Which is a testament to Adrien, because I've taken photo classes before from which I retained nothing, and I've read digital photography books from which nothing sunk in. Adrien was working on a foundation of nothing. And he added everything.

He was chill and took his time to work through the concepts, showing photographs that demonstrated what he meant. As the first day drew to a close, he set up play sites around the workshop room so we could practice what he'd preached. It was immediately fun to me, even in the challenge of it all. I loved taking pictures before, but with a better understanding of the power a photographer has, I fell in love with photography.

As the puzzle came together at the end of day one, he sent us off on our merry ways with homework: take pictures. The second day would consist of reviewing our photos with his (gentle, positive and constructive) critique. I stepped outside and started clicking. I walked through Hamilton Park and kept clicking. Then I got home and real life got in the way and I stopped clicking until the morning, when I picked the torch back up to try to capture the WCH and the beautiful snowfall we experienced on Saturday night (turns out that's basically the hardest thing to photograph, only slightly less so because the sun wasn't out). In short (another lie! That wasn't short!), I couldn't stop.

And I don't plan to. Because March is photography month. What Adrien doesn't know is that he just set me up for what will probably be my favorite of the One Goal Per Month challenges this year. Because as opposed to flossing my teeth and drinking enough water, which I'm making myself do because they're good for me, I really want to learn these concepts to the point that I don't think about them anymore, and that I get my eye back. Or better yet, develop a new, more informed eye.

Conveniently, as I mentioned, I'm headed to Costa Rica next week. Even better, I'm headed to places I've visited many times. Why better? Because I have probably thousands of photos of these spots (**coughcough**automatic setting photos**coughcough**), so I don't need to fear missing out on a moment or on the scenery as I fumble with my settings. I can just play. And what a playground. It's dry season (read: brown horizons), but I think that will make for some beautifully interesting shots when we are inland and when we are coastal... well, those photos just take themselves. But I'll try to put some personal flair on them.

I'll definitely share some of my favorite snaps with you when I get back. And with Adrien, since he was gracious enough to offer all of the students his ongoing advice via email, which I found very generous. In the meantime, want to see my favorite snaps from day one? Don't judge too harshly, I'm just getting my feet wet. But check them out:

Now, my class was at the usual JC Art School location on 5th Street, but it gets better. Way better. They are moving into the old Goods'n'Greens space on the corner of Hamilton Park, three blocks from my house (as opposed to the four or five blocks it is to 5th Street, have I mentioned my laziness?). Figure drawing, painting and photo classes will now be held in that gorgeous, light-filled space on the park, and I'm pretty sure I can't get enough of that. I see a figure drawing date night in my future (how sex-ay is that?).

Just another reason I love my neighborhood, and just another reason I love Jersey City. They just keep piling up.

Find Jersey City Art School (and Adrien!) on the interwebs: