Sunday, February 13, 2011

Computers for Dummies or Photoshop for Pros?

I am taking a photoshop course at the local college. The instructor is a lovely young woman and professional photographer. Prior to registering for the course, I spoke to her and asked how basic the information would be. She gave the appropriate response. People would be at various stages and could work at their own level. Even if some were more advanced, it wouldn't matter. I accepted this and registered.

Classes began. Last week, we were asked to bring our cameras. As everyone removed their hubble telescopes from their suitcases, I was trying to come up with an excuse to keep from unearthing the small Nikon from my purse. After looking around the room and noting that there were in fact a few people whose equipment was also dimensionally challenged, I produced my camera. As the instructor talked about settings, speed, f-stops, blurry foregrounds and backgrounds, I admired my automatic settings...the little face for closeups, the mountain for far away, the moon and stars for night shots, the dog for photographing...hmm...dogs? It was all I needed.
At yesterday's session, "retouching faces", I began working at my own level. After getting some help to turn on the computer, I entered my name and password. In fairness, the lights were off, my vision is old and it was too dark to see any kind of unmarked "on" button on a black computer. As I tried to access the Photoshop programme, the instructor began to talk about blowouts, RCB and opacity. I listened while searching for the correct programme. I looked for a handout which might contain this basic information and finding none, I continued to experiment. Why couldn't this be easy like my computer at home which has a Photoshop desktop icon? No such luck here and no info in my piles of notes. Nonetheless, I found the programme after my third try. Then I wondered whether I should go to to decipher the instructor's aforementioned terminology. I thought it better to listen and take profuse notes.

I scribbled as fast as I could for almost an hour, while attempting to watch an overhead screen to keep up. On this large screen, a photo of older woman's face was magically transformed with healing brushes, clone brushes, layers, eyedroppers, saturation, highlights, erasers and more. Her teeth were lassoed and whitened, skin evened, eyes brightened and wrinkles removed. Wrinkle removal? I was  listening even more intently. We then were shown how to use a marquis tool to move heads from one location to another and were shown how to shift the shape. "Select head, control C, over, then control B, select, copy, paste, lower opacity, erase, bring opacity up, final erasing, flatten layer, then save as....." I know this is accurate. I have no idea how to do it but I wrote it all down. I looked around the room and saw several other people with glazed over eyes.

Finally, it was  time to work on our own. I found a photo of myself and enlarged my face. Yikes! Scary at best, particularly when I couldn't get the magnifier to stop! I turned off the programme and started again. This time, I succeeded in stopping at 200%. After an extensive search of my face, I finally found a wrinkle I could attempt to remove. I tried to locate the "clone brush". There is no such thing, so I used the stamp...not bad if you don't mind white circles all over your photo. Next, I wanted to remove a stray hair which was blowing in the wind. Suddenly, I found myself depositing checkerboards everywhere  and what were those black globs where my hair should have been? I panicked, tried to erase but created more dark desposits. I looked around to see if anyone was watching and turned off the programme only to restart for a third time. At least I was locating Photoshop more quickly now. At this point, the instructor showed up to view my progress. She looked at my computer and curiously searched "history" to see what I'd done. Then she showed me how to create a "layer". I asked about the clone brush and was told, " Oh, it's a stamp. I forgot. You're doing well. Even if that's all you learn, it's o.k."

If what's all I learn? What have I learned today? I managed to find the computer "on" button, restart the programme several times and yes, there was that magnification of my face.

I noticed or perhaps imagined that the instructor avoided my seating area, spent a brief time with a few students who looked panic stricken, and then, finally settled herself in near the "smart kids". That was ok with me as I eventually started started frittering, fidgeting and fiddling. I studied the contents of my purse and consumed aTums I found near the bottom. I checked my phone, admired my new handbag organizer, clicked all my pens to make sure they would work and pulled out my notebook. While on the verge of tears, I jotted down a note "This is like trying to learn a foreign language. I have never felt so stupid and inept in my life....well, maybe I have."

I suddenly realized that I had in fact learned something today. It was something that I already knew, but had not thought about since my retirement as an educator. As a result of my current college experience, I remembered 'learning styles" and the importance of addressing these when teaching children or adults for that matter. I understood the frustration and sadness of those who have difficulty learning. I could see why they get distracted and fuss around. I sympathized with their reasons for giving up and not trying any further. I appreciated the all too frequent bathroom trips and  hurry to leave class at the end of the day. Children do not always have the tools, the knowledge, the means or the ability to deal with their own frustrations. Their learning deficiencies end up turning into a viscious cycle of failure when in fact, many of them are of higher than average intelligence. They are afraid to ask for help lest they appear "stupid".

As an adult, I don't have to sit back as my esteem crashes and burns. Next week, I will speak to the instructor.

 "Hi. May I speak to you for a moment please? As you have gathered, I don't understand much of what you're saying and doing. I'm afraid that I'm a lot like the rest of the human population who can only absorb between 3 and 10 minutes of technical information at a time. Would it be possible for you to slow down and not present all the new information at once. Or, could we possibly complete each step with you? For example, last week, it would have been helpful for me, if I had my computer on and the programme ready before you started to speak. Then perhaps, if I had my photo in front of me, I could have completed the editing steps along with you and tried to do what you were showing us. This would have helped me remember and understand the new information more readily......"

I'll try this grown up way of dealing with the problem before I am tempted to become a dropout.

1 comment:

  1. I've always appreciated the teaching techniquie of telling students what you are going to teach them, then teach the students, ending with telling them what you taught them. You'll do fine, Hilde, since now you have an idea of what menu options you haven't messed with yet.