Day by day account of the Intensive DSLR course at the Cape Town School of Photography.

Day Two of the Intensive Digital SLR course at the Cape Town School of Photography saw us delving deeper into exposure. Several of us were still confused about the different kinds of stops, and aperture and a shutter speed were explained in greater detail.

The first thing we did when we got there was put our assignments from Monday up on the wall. Each of us had to take two photographs of the same subject, being sure to move around the subject and two photographs of the same object and we had to abstract the object. There were several interesting objects, while for the most part the subjects were our partners: fiancés, boyfriends and husbands – some people had used classmates as their subjects. The objects ranged from lamps to books to a bicycle helmet, but the consensus was a pile of high-heeled shoes was the best photograph of the day.

Katie was gentle but thorough in her critiques, pointing out where we’d failed to focus an image, where we’d overexposed or underexposed an image as well as issues with composition like framing and crowded images. She explained the rule of thirds, and found something good to say about everybody’s work, while still managing to show each of us where we could have improved our shots.

Then on to the lecture, we were shown several photographs exemplifying high depth of field photography, low depth of field photography and various kinds of motion photography (stop motion; panning and motion). These examples ranged from the work of students doing the same course as us to work from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams and some of Katie’s own work. We saw some amazing photographs and saw the remarkable range of effects that can be accomplished using depth of field and motion.

When we were sufficiently inspired it was time to head outside and put what we had learned into practice. First off we went out to the balcony at the Cape Town School of Photography where Katie briefly sacrificed her customary poise at the altar of learning. Jumping up and down several times so we could practice stop motion and motion photography with her as the subject. When we felt we had sufficiently explored that, we headed down to the street. Although we are just learning, I would venture to say that Cape Town is an excellent location for street photography, with colourful friendly locals, interesting architecture and great nature and greenery right there in the city centre subjects are varied.

First we scared motorists as we practiced panning on the corners of Roeland and Upper Canterbury streets. The passing motorists must have seen the flashes and thought they were being caught by the most trigger-happy speed traps in the world. Looking over they would have been puzzled to see a ragtag bunch with SLRs snapping away at nothing in particular.

Then we headed down to Buitenkant Street, where there proved to be several subjects to practice our depth of field photography on. After more than an hour on the street, we headed back up to the school and were assigned our homework, far more difficult than Day One’s assignment. We have to turn in three photographs, one displaying shallow depth of field, one deep depth of field and another, dealing with motion. I was up late into Tuesday night trying to take photographs while not overturning the lamp balanced on a pile of books next to me – I wasn’t under-exposing my homework again!