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How I Learned to Take Photos

Confessions of a Jay Fleming pupil

After my ninth grade photography teacher’s put-down, I have shied away from taking any photos but snapshots — and definitely no Snapchats. “You manage to capture something that is already beautiful, but you fail to create it as a picture.”
    Annapolis photographer Jay Fleming is proving that even I can take pictures. This month at Herrington Harbour Marina, I joined a class of 15 students, with varying levels of photography experience, learning to take natural shots on the Bay. Structured for hands-on learning, the first class was a lecture and the second a critique of pictures we took between classes one and two.
    Fascinated by Fleming’s book Working the Water, I sought a place on a working boat, which led to me reporting for duty one morning at 5am to go out crabbing with Bob Evans Seafood’s crew on the Tempest.
    In two hours, I shot more than 300 photos. From them, I chose what I thought were my best shots and proudly displayed them for critique.
    Fleming’s insights made me reassess. Here’s what I’ve learned, in words and pictures.
    1. Shooting on the water is as messy as it is rewarding. Water sprays muddy your lens; stock lots of lens wipes. If you’re considering getting more invested, consider buying a waterproof case and a shield for your camera.
    2. Shoot more than one shot of a scene. Capture multiple shots and do not delete or edit until you’re at home. The one you thought was just right might not hold up to further examination, as Fleming showed me. Bring multiple memory cards. There will be lots of bad photos before you get a good one.
    3. Be mindful of the time of day, especially on the water. Early morning or dusk is best. Midday’s light is harsh and tends to wash out photos and blend horizon lines. Stay away from glare. It is hard to capture because it reads as white on the printer.
    4. Point of view can make or break a photo. Getting on the same level as your subject conveys a more personal feeling. Getting closer to the water can change your horizon line, define the motion of the water and better capture reflections. Sometimes the unexpected can lead to something delightful. Be bold.
    5. Be mindful of your subject, making sure it is in focus and what your eye is drawn toward. Avoid centering your subject in your shot. Focus can be achieved by using leading lines or distortion or by accentuating colors.
    With those tips — and two days of Fleming’s personal attention — I’m brave enough to present you my best efforts.
    Find your class with Fleming at