Field trips help student photographers hone critical skills


As a professional photographer, I have been intrigued by the Quest Program offered by Walla Walla Community College. Membership is for those over 50 years old seeking “Adventures In Learning.”

This program can provide a graceful transition into retirement for students who learn new skills and share the journey with like-minded peers.

I can identify with this age group, and as an instructor of digital photography who enjoys helping others develop new skills I really like the Quest objectives of no tests, no grades and no credits.

So as I prepared for October’s class sessions I focused on one global objective for my Quest class. The lectures and field trips would “gently inspire” the students to see the world around us in a different way.

Setting up the five-week curriculum included several simple but critical elements: Natural lighting: where it is and how to use it; shutter speed: to freeze or create a soft image; aperture: to control depth of field; ISO: the final element of exposure and how to use it; and composition: creating awareness of the background.

Three field trips selected for this inspirational journey would have to give the students an opportunity to have fun and focus their photographic skills.

The first field trip

To test shutter speed and composition we visited Ash Hollow Winery at the airport. Our host was Jennifer Gregory, manager, and for our class she rode her black 1,600 pound Belgian Friesian horse across the wheat fields and then reared the horse up in front of the class.

Those who were using point-and-shoot cameras suddenly discovered there is a lag time between pushing the shutter and taking the actual picture. In essence, the first couple of times they missed the horse rearing up and down and had to guess when the camera would take the picture. Those students with the DSLRs had to set the camera Release Mode Dial to high speed to catch the action.

The second field trip

To test light, texture and low shadows we walked a short distance to Klicker’s and visited the store and Halloween pumpkin patch display.

Since the class hours were from 1:30-3:30 p.m., the sunlight gave the class the opportunity to shoot with sun and low shadows across the pumpkin patch. Capturing the textures of the orange pumpkins with outside natural light and colorful vegetables with inside fluorescent lighting gave the students an opportunity to fine tune the aperture and ISO settings to perfect their in camera images.

The third field trip

Our field trip was a visit to Waterbrook’s winery production facility, where winemaker John Freeman was our guide and host. In this large complex the students would be able to practice all the elements of the class, including shutter speed with tons of grapes and juice dropping into bins, shooting a continuous bottling line and working on their depth of field shooting endless rows of colorful wine barrels.

Outside the production facility we walked the trails around the lakes and were able to capture a variety of green grasses and wonderful shadows.

In next month’s column I will discuss how the class responded to the challenge of how to “make a picture.”

Don Fleming can be reached at


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