Something for everyone at TC Media Alliance photography class


EDITOR’S NOTE: The article presents the points of view of two participants: a beginning photographer (Paige Elliott’s story) and one with more experience (Zan Tomko’s story.)

Paige Elliott’s story

I felt a little sheepish at the thought of taking a photography class. My love of photography has always been persistent but casual. I just assumed everyone would have more experience and a much better camera, and there’s me with my little Snap and Shoot.

Turns out I’ve felt right at home in the photography classes offered at Twin Cities Daily Planet. I’ve taken a few classes with photographer, Tom Baker, and on May 30 and June 6, I took Avye Alexandre’s two-part Digital Photography class. It was a blast!

Class description


“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” Ansel Adams

Avye referenced the above Ansel Adams quote in class and it resonated with me. What I learned in class is a great photo is determined by the eye of the photographer and that eye can be trained. Of course, a great camera helps, but it’s the photographer who makes the photo. Avye’s class gave me some simple tools to be mindful of to take more memorable photos.

Part I of Avye’s class was lecture-based. She went through the basic elements of composition: line, texture, repetition, etc., and displayed photos to demostrate how these concepts guide the eye around an image. We were then given an assignment to employ the lesson in exercises that were then discussed and critiqued in Part II of the class.

Below are some of the pictures discussed in class:

We started the critique of my photos by discussing a couple shots from Myrtle Beach, SC, that happened to be on my memory card from a few years ago. Avye utilized  the photos to point out the relationship between the color, texture and line.

              Myrtle Beach       Myrtle Beach

I was told by another student in class that my pictures reflect a love of the city, a pretty astute observation. I do enjoy trying to capture the city’s bustling pace and movement, the structured commotion.  In the picture below, I was struck by the contrast in colors–the red car against the gray sky and buildings.

 Nicollet Mall 
One of our exercises involved taking pictures from slightly different angles to examine why one image might be a bit more effective or compelling than another.St Anthony Main                 Photo class assignment

Another example of images taken from slightly different angles.    

                                                                                                      Building                Photo class assignment

Below are a few pictures of a waterless Peavey Plaza. The pictures bring home the greatest lesson I took away from the class: don’t be afraid to get closer to the subject. Avye suggested that I go back and take more photos, but this time capture nothing but the subject. I do find the second set of photos more intriguing.  

Photo class assignment               

 Photo class assignment 
Avye met each student at their particular skill and experience level.  I came away from the class feeling more confident and adventurous … and I finally read my camera’s manual! Progress!

Zan Tomko’s story 

“Photography is all about secrets. The secrets we all have and will never tell.” Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

Avye Alexandres’s digital photography class at Twin Cities Daily Planet turned out to be exactly what I needed. After moving to Minneapolis two years ago and just completing a 9-month certificate program in public relations, it felt good to do something that was not a home project or a homework project.

Avye started the two-part class with a concise presentation of fundamentals of photography, how the camera works, basic design elements, and suggested assignments to begin the photo transaction. The second class would be a critique of work edited or completed between sessions.

The assignment I chose was to seek out simplicity; the subject, a series of portraits I wanted to create of my nieces, nephews and grandchildren- the same peer group.


Photo class assignment - simplicity  

I simplified the background with a linen table cloth duck-taped to the wall, used a tight frame, and tried to talk the subject into  just relaxing, no need to smile. I used available, outdoor light in bright shade, with an improvised reflector made of tinfoil taped over a magazine to reflect light back into the subjects face.  I used a Nikon Cool-Pix point and shoot. That’s about as simple as I could get.

The children’s ages range from 2 years to 11 years, and from the outtakes, it’s plain to see how aware even the youngest child was of the camera and the anticipated results. They play to the camera.


Photo class assignment - simplicity

Creating a straightforward portrait like this is more like fishing than photography. Wait, wait, wait, snap. Quiet conversation takes the lead, but giggles and laughs punctuated the photo session. Ten minutes and 20 images later, they run off to their world and I look at the secrets they shared with me, a very thin slice of the inner world of childhood.

Landscape photography is a foreign genre to me; I never know what is important. So for the second exercise, I decided to follow Avye’s suggestion to explore point-of-view (POV). I framed the image through the lens, then changed the level of the camera to higher or lower than expected. 

The photo was shot in Two Rivers, WI, on the shore of Lake Michigan. Setting the camera below waist level changed the scale of the landscape boulder, and the corner of the boulder balances the distant horizon of Lake Michigan. Optically, the boulder looks to be much larger than the lake, and the luminous grey sky pushes back against everything below. I felt Avye’s suggestion of POV provided good practice to look beyond the obvious.