As a follow-up on yesterday's post, I'd like to describe a two-part exercise I used to assign my high school and beginner college students.
In the first part, they (and when I say "they" I mean "I") had to go into the darkroom and clip a three-inch piece of unexposed 35mm film, lay it across the gate of their camera, and close the back. (A brief note, not that anyone cares: that was not as easy as it sounds.)
The result was a one-shot camera. With the camera in the field, only one shot was possible. You couldn't even remove the single strip and load a roll without ruining the single shot. The assignment was to devote an hour or so to shooting and come back with the single shot exposed, develop it (in a tray, in the dark, meaning, I did a lot of "helping" with that too), and print it.
The second part of the assignment was to spend a minimum of three hours shooting a minimum of six rolls of film. (Actually it started out as ten—hey, they were only 24-exposure rolls—and ended up as three, but I tried to stick to six.)
These assignments did not go over very well. The single-shot exercise was not very popular with students. The two most common complaints were, "Why should I learn to do this? I'm never going to shoot this way for real!" and "What if I see something really great after I've already exposed my shot?" You know, the old Elvis-boarding-a-flying-saucer-on-a-unicorn argument. And the six-roll assignment was unpopular with the Head of the Art Department. The school provided film for photography students, covered by "lab fees," and six rolls was three weeks' worth of film according to the departmental budget. The limited/unlimited shooting assignments died an untimely death.
It's funny how people don't see a thing wrong with trudging up fake stairs for half an hour, or repeating "¿Dónde está el cuarto de baño?" ten times being prompted by a recording, but they balk at the concept of exercises and practice where photography is concerned.
(In fact, one of my many abandoned book projects is a book of exercises meant to make you a better photographer—many of which I've actually done my very own self. I gave up on that, though, because I knew what its fate would be: people would read it, think they'd gotten 100% of the benefit of the exercises just by reading about them, and never actually do any of them. About the third time I caught myself writing an urgent exhortation to actually do the exercises, I finally though, ah, what's the use.
There are actually a number of people who are following through with my Leica-for-a-year exercise suggestion, though, so maybe I should resurrect that book idea.)
Anyway, here's my current suggestion: If you're one of those who have never tried "a hundred shots just to warm up," you really should try it a few times.
Just as an exercise.
You might learn something from the experience. Maybe not, but maybe.
I'm just sayin'.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.