- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

Beverly Fraser is comfortable behind a camera.
That wasn't always the case. When Mrs. Fraser started taking photography classes in January at the Washington School of Photography in Bethesda, she knew nothing about the proper techniques needed to capture an image.
Mrs. Fraser, 47, of Centerville, Md., had worked in sales for a photographer but didn't have a creative background in the field. Since enrolling in classes, she has gained enough confidence to dream of opening her own studio.
"I started from the ground up," she says. "Getting to this point is a milestone. I always wanted to get on the other side of the camera."
Learning how to photograph starts with knowing the fundamentals of the subject, such as how to focus an image. After students have mastered the more difficult skills, such as developing film in the darkroom, it can take a lifetime of discovery to take truly stunning photographs.
Missy Loewe, dean of the Washington School of Photography, says students such as Mrs. Fraser have come a long way in a short time. The dean says that pupils get out of the classes what they put into them. The school has classes with a range of skill levels, starting with Basic Photography and Darkroom, which is an eight-week course that costs $325. It is designed for the beginner who wants to go beyond "point and shoot" photography. Students will learn the basics of light and composition, as well as an introduction to rules of proper exposure.
Along with various workshops, a program of courses is available that leads to a certificate in professional photography. Both serious hobbyists and aspiring professionals are welcome. Classes begin in January, June and September. One needs no knowledge or experience in photography.
"We want to give them the ability to take on whatever realm of professional photography they want to go into," Ms. Loewe says. "It's such a diverse field, but we hope we give them a solid basis of education."
Alex Jeffries, Photoworks instructor at Glen Echo Park, says he starts from square one when teaching new students. Photoworks is a learning center for people interested in discovering their potential as photographers. Students at all levels can learn the technical and artistic elements of photography.
During the first class of Introductory Photography, Mr. Jeffries shows them how to load film in the camera by cranking it manually. He says many assume the film will load automatically. He also touches upon the uses of the camera, lenses, metering, film developing, printing, dry mounting and editing. The next course, which starts Sept. 21 and runs through Nov. 16, costs $260.
Mr. Jeffries emphasizes the three basic operations of a camera, focus, shutter speed and aperture. He instructs his pupils to have the principal feature being photographed in focus. For instance, one might highlight the hands of a pianist, while allowing the objects around the hands to blur for artistic effect.
He says shutter speed and aperture affect the amount of light reaching the film in the camera, so students learn how to control the amount of light in the picture. The shutter speed controls the length of time the image sensor in the camera is exposed to light, while the aperture controls the amount of light. After students understand these operations, Mr. Jeffries begins to explain the principle of depth of field.
"It's the heart of decent photography," Mr. Jeffries says. "If you take a picture of two rows of people, you want to get both rows in focus."
Once students know how to use their cameras, Mr. Jeffries teaches them to develop their film, which requires total darkness. The film is placed on a reel and put in a small metal tank with the proper chemicals at the correct intervals. Depending on the type of film, it must be exposed at a certain temperature for a specific amount of time. After the process is complete, the film is taken off the reel and hung in a dry place for at least 30 minutes.
Then, Mr. Jeffries shows his students how to print their negatives on light-sensitive paper. By placing a negative into an enlarger, the enlarger fixes the negative in a set position and shines light through it onto the print paper from various heights. The higher the enlarger goes, the bigger the image cast onto the paper. Since the print paper reacts to light in the same way as film, the image from the negative is transferred to the print paper when light shines onto it. Then one uses the same chemicals to develop the print paper as one did with the negative.
"I've learned. It's not impossible," says Mr. Jeffries says who is a retired architect. "I've taught people who are younger. I've taught people who are older. It's very educational. It's very stabilizing. You can see your progress when you work."
Kim Kirkpatrick, photography instructor with the Smithsonian Associates' Resident Associate Program in Southwest, says that after students take introductory classes, they often choose to focus on a specialty they enjoy. For instance, Mr. Kirkpatrick favors photographing landscapes, instead of people. He says he knows few photographers who specialize in both portraits and landscapes. He teaches Fall Landscape Photography Oct. 19 through Dec. 14. The cost is $200 for Smithsonian Associates' resident members and $245 for nonmembers. The course is based on photographing the D.C. metropolitan area.
"Everyone in the class has photos from the same place," Mr. Kirkpatrick says. "It's interesting to see how everyone sees the same place differently. You don't have to go to Yosemite to do your work."
Amy Keyser of Vienna says she chose a class in pinhole photography through Smithsonian Associates' Resident Associate Program to expand her abilities. Pinhole photography is making photographs using a camera with a small hole made by a pinhole instead of a lens. Any light-tight object that can hold a sensitive piece of printing paper can be used to make photographs. This fall, the class will be taught by Bruce McKaig, Sept. 10 through Oct. 1 for $120 for resident members and $165 for nonmembers.
"It's much more challenging than regular photography," Ms. Keyser says. "It takes much longer to make one image, instead of just snapping your finger on an automatic camera."
No matter what speciality one learns, Grace Graham, photography instructor at the Rockville Arts Place, in Rockville, says photographers of all skill levels benefit from reviewing the basics. This fall, Ms. Graham is teaching Fundamentals of Black and White Photography I, which runs from Sept. 9 through Oct. 28. It costs $265 for members and $285 for nonmembers.
"You can learn the fundamentals relatively quickly," she says. "But it takes a while to work through it and take the pictures and make the mistakes and correct them until it becomes intuitive."

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