Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What Boys Should Know

So how long does it take to teach a 9-yr old boy to use a SLR camera? Well apparently not very long...

I took my son on his first "adventure photography road trip" with the hope of slowly introducing him to photography.  I was a bit skeptic because it took me a while to figure out the difference between aperture, ISO and exposure and I did not expect a child to master that in one trip. Also, I didn't want to scare him off on Day One.

We were heading towards Gifberg. Our first stop was just past Malmesbury. I gave him a few tips on how to switch it on, hold the camera and to focus.  I mentioned something about aperture but kept it simple, real simple. It was the first time that he ever held a SLR in his hands, and he has not really taken any pictures with a point-and-shoot or a phone camera either. Nothing in any case where you had to zoom or focus. He took a few shots, asked me why this and that is happening and after a while got back into the car.  "It's over!" I thought to myself.

The surprise however came after we got in and drove off.  He started asking questions which reminded me of the time I started asking my mom questions and she shoved a book in my hand by Dr Jan van Elfen called "What boys should know". I took the opportunity and gave him a photography book I had brought along. The questions that followed convinced me that the game was not over yet. "Why were some shots too light and others dark?".  "Why was some blurry and some not?".  "How far can I zoom in?". "What are these other buttons for...?".  I started talking. The more I talked the more questions came. Close to Citrusdal he instructed me to stop. He saw a nice farm stall next to the road.  Thinking that he wanted something to eat, I stopped.  He got out with his camera and started snapping instead. I went in and bought Mineolas and rusks. He didn't want anything.

The day went on, we stopped at various spots, covered a lot of ground on the photography topic, climbed fences, took little roads, crossed rivers.  Every time we stopped he got out and started snapping away. Each time asking fewer questions and coming back with better pictures. "I want to take pictures of the stars tonight" he said.  "Oh my" I thought to myself, "not sure your camera can do that...."

We arrived at our overnight stop.  He got out, started taking pictures. By now I was at lesson 7 I guess. He asked me about lenses, auto focus and again, how does all this fit in when taking star shots? I was slightly worried. His camera does not expose longer than 30 seconds, but I will show him my "bulb" settings tonight...if he does not fall asleep before that. "We will go at 9:30", I said.

At 9:30 we took the car and drove off into the night. "We want a safe place away from the town, preferably on a farm road", I said to him.  Now I felt like Abraham taking Isaac to the mountain.  He does not have a "bulb" mode and he is super excited to take his first starry sky pictures. We set up, I showed him the steps but said nothing about "Bulb".  He took few shots and jumped up and down. "Cool, I captured the stars".  I felt a bit bad because I was going to take pictures too, but on "bulb". "They are awesome!", I lied, "but your camera is not good enough son, look what Dad's camera has. Mine has another setting called "bulb" and yours doesn't. I can get much longer exposures." Somehow that did not dampen his spirit.  He was super stoked about his first night sky shots  We went home, he still talked "photography".

The next morning he got up.  Before breakfast he took his camera and went outside.  He came back and said: "Guess what Dad, my camera DOES have a "bulb" setting. It is under "manual". I was totally surprised. I have never seen that before.  Ok, I never used that camera for night or star photography, but still.  "Oh, and look, when I shoot on 'Av', the Tv setting chances automatically, and, and....."  I was stunned, speechless.

The rest of the day we drove around, getting in and out to take pictures.  Knowing that he has a "bulb" setting was the ultimate reward.  He was going to shoot stars tonight, come hell or high water...

During the day he captured some awesome shots...and plenty bloopers too.  I told him about the rule of thirds, contrast, point of view. I was surprised at how much I knew myself, but more surprised at his curiosity and his capacity to absorb and process.  He completely skipped the other settings and was shooting on "Manual", occasionally jumping to Tv, Av and ISO. He asked me what "this little green symbol" stands for. I said "Automatic, but believe me, you're past that, you'll never use it." Something that took me years to master, he masted in less than two days. On day three we returned home and he started asking more about editing. He asked earlier but I told him "Baby steps, my boy". I was so naive.

When we arrived home I showed him Lightroom's editing capabilities. I created some folders for him, loaded his bests shots and said:" There you go, edit your best five shots and then I will create you a watermark."  He did all his editing by himself and gave me 8 images to watermark.  I added the watermark for him and asked him what he wants to charge for his pictures.  "I don't think anyone will like them.  I know Mom might buy a few, and maybe Kira (his 4-yr old sister) too.  Let's say R20 a shot or maybe a trade? I'll take any Angry Birds token for an image, or any sweets I guess".

Yes, it may sound like it but no, I am not just a proud father bragging about his son.  I am flabbergasted, I am inspired, I am amazed, but there lies more in this experience than his ability to understand a camera. I spend three amazing days with my son and learned more about him that I did in 9-years.  I did not only "kick-start" an aspirant photographer, I made a friend, a buddy to take on all my photography tours. I created a way to spend valuable time with him and teach him about about other things too, about life, about beauty, about nature. At the same time we will have more adventures, explore new places and meet more people. I'll leave "What boys should know" for later, he might surprise me there too in a couple of years. But, at the moment I am truly blessed.

Below some of his first images on his "new" SLR. All edits done by himself.  If you want to purchase any of his images, please let me know. You'll make his day!

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