Childhood summers...they were the greatest! School was out and I had the freedom to hang out with my friends without any worry about homework. Fast forward twenty years, summers look pretty similar for me as I am able to put the lesson plans away and take my camera out for adventures. And if I'm lucky enough, I get the opportunity to combine both my love for teaching and photography through Aperture Academy's Teen Photo Camp.
With Covid-19 cramping everyone's summer fun this year, Aperture Academy looked for ways to bring a sense of normalcy back with our annual Teen Camp. With social distancing, masks, and a slew of disinfectants in place, we modified our usually travel-packed week into three days of exploring natural light, understanding camera basics, and practicing composition.
I was nervous at the beginning with my group of five students. They were six feet apart, donning masks, and awaiting my instruction-and I could only gauge their expressions from their eyes. It was a teaching first. But as we started to make introductions and share out with one another, I instantly relaxed and fell into the usual joys of teaching. We started with a brief foundation of the camera and exposure and then went over some compositional techniques to practice. Afterwards, we headed outside to photograph our model Kaitlyn, the goal being to set the correct aperture in aperture priority mode and focus properly through portrait photography. We worked on angles, positioning the model, and even creative shots using depth of field. Pretty soon, an hour flew by and it was time to upload to Lightroom. After lunch, we went over basic organization and editing in Lightroom-rating images, adjusting shadows/highlights, modifying colors, and syncing photos.
We took an editing break by coming back to the camera skills, and this time focusing on shutter speed and using shutter priority. I got my workout in as the students practiced freezing motion (mostly of me jumping and parkour-ing off a tree), blurring motion, and panning (I was dying from sprinting before the students realized panning cars would be a bit easier). It was fun seeing these images come to life through the proper application of shutter speed. When day one was over, the students left with a solid amount of pictures and homework for day two.
Their homework was to bring in any small figurines or items they had lying around the house for macro photography! The lightboxes were set up as they walked in, and I had a surprise for them as well. Macro photography specialist, DeAnna Roberts, was able to join us that morning and also brought a bunch of goodies for the kids to photograph. From fruits to flowers, we spent the next few hours getting up close to the subjects and emphasizing composition. Afterwards, the students uploaded on their own and began the culling and editing process they learned the day before.
After lunch, we stayed with macro photography, but shifted gears to a miniature world assignment. Using sense of scale, how can you tell a story through random figurines and essentially create a miniature world? It was a good way to get the students outside, both by finding macro items and figuring out how to incorporate the natural environment. The day ended with a variety of miniature subjects: legos on carrots, broccoli trees, and even a recreation of lunch in Rome. Oh and bugs. Lots of close-ups of bugs. Pretty epic day.
On the final day of camp, I walked into Aperture Academy with a bittersweet feeling. It was only three days, but working with the kids brought me back to the school year that ended so abruptly. When the students arrived, they took some time to narrow down images, and then we went over exporting in Lightroom. After sending me their top three images, I sent them out for a scavenger hunt assignment that would review what they learned. After lunch, we decided to do a more abstract project in creating photo kaleidoscopes. While I finalized their prints, the students headed out once more to look for three elements of art: color, lines, and shapes. Putting the kaleidoscopes together was a fun group project, with some sweet treats on the side to boost. When five o'clock rolled around, the pictures were matted and up for display. Parents came in one at a time to view the work, and I was beaming with pride. The creativity, effort, and positivity I was met with during camp was a refreshing change to my months of shelter-in-place filled with anxiety. I know they will continue to apply that positive energy toward all their future endeavors, and I can only hope our paths cross again in the future.
Until next time,
Mary and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.