When Julie Wiebe and Rachel Thomas look at the world now, they see it through the lens of a camera.
The Grade 11 students have found a new interest in photography thanks to a class at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School. The course, taught by digital media teacher John Murray, has them out and about town, shooting pictures of nature and various local sites such as the cemetery.
Thomas, who admits she fell into the class by chance, said she really enjoys it, especially taking close-up shots that capture different environmental textures or tell a story. Her favourite photo so far is of a stuffed animal with a poppy on a veteran’s memorial as it really “pulls at the heartstrings.
“I kind of like photos that have a story behind them rather than just taking a picture of a leaf and saying ‘that’s a nice leaf.’ It has to have meaning to it, kind of like grandma’s pictures of her grandchildren, only more artsy in a way,” Thomas said.
Murray said photography is a great medium to teach as it’s very visual and anyone can excel in it. Although his photo lab includes simple point-and-shoot cameras and a suite of Nikon digital single-lens reflex (DSLRs) cameras, his philosophy is to teach students how to take great pictures, whether they are using a professional camera or a cellphone.
“There’s no point using a camera here they’re never going to use again. We do a lot of work on photo composition because it doesn’t matter what type of camera you’re using,” he said.
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Thomas said Murray has taught them techniques like the rule of thirds, basic framing and other tricks that turn a simple photograph into a work of art, while Wiebe said the Photoshop tips have helped her to enhance and clean up images while keeping the images true to life.
“When I was younger my dad bought me a camera. I have no idea what type because at the time I didn’t care,” Wiebe said. “I enjoyed taking long-range, distant pictures, a lot of foreground shots. As soon as I got into this class I started taking really close-up pictures so that totally changed for me.”
Nature shots, especially little flowers, grass and water droplets, are among Wiebe’s favourites, although she also enjoys taking photos of children in the playground because “they’re super cute.”
Murray said he strives to inspire creativity and passion among his students, whether it’s shooting wildlife or photoshopping themselves into old photos. He encourages students who show an interest and talent for photography to leave their comfort zones and try new things.
He prefers that each student wanders the community and takes photos of whatever strikes their fancy. This allows them to compete against themselves and not one another.
“It’s like the kids who take the course they know all the answers to. Did they really learn anything when they got a 100 percent?” Murray said. “At the end of the course, if they finished the course with 75 percent and loved photography, that’s great. If they finish with a 100 percent and say they hate photography, that’s not success.”