If you're using the highest-tech cameras around and still getting less than perfect results, maybe it has nothing to do with the equipment. You may need a little help in planning and composition.
The simple solution may be a photography class, seminar or workshop.
One such seminar, now in its 11th year, is the California Workshop at Idyllwild. It is under the the direction of Wayne Kelly of Laguna Hills, a professor of journalism at Cal State Long Beach.
Kelly says the best part of such a seminar, which lasts four days, is the almost instant feedback students get. After a day's shoot, all film is processed by the workshop staff and is critiqued that evening.
Workshop instructors have included J.R. Eyerman, former chief photographer of Life magazine and Pulitzer Prize winners David Hume Kennerly and Eddie Adams.
The average workshop is limited to 15 students, Kelly says, providing opportunities for serious individual attention.
Kelly's photojournalism career started at a small weekly paper in his hometown of Knightstown, Ind., and led to the chief photographer's job at The Times before he turned to academia.
Based upon his 30 years in photography, Kelly offers these tips for better pictures:
Scenes have to be properly lighted, whether it's available or artificial light. Even with new films such as T-MAX (Kodak's new line of black-and-white films) you can only squeeze quality so far.
Learn to use lenses. Many people buy one or two lenses and think they can do everything with them. You can't survive with just a 35-millimeter lens. You need the variety that different lenses can offer. Kelly recommends that the standard set should include a 35-mm., 55-mm. macro and 135- or 180-mm. A fourth option should be a tele-extender or a 300-mm. Kelly also recommends zoom lenses.
Try to say something with the pictures.
Improve your presentation. Forget slides; they're a waste of time because they're too difficult to show. Instead, have quality prints made of your best work and frame them for your walls. Or put them in an album to show guests.
The California Workshop runs Aug. 9 through 13 in the mountain community of Wrightwood. The cost is $275 before Aug. 1 and $325 after that date. The price does not include accommodations. For information, call Kelly at (213) 985-4981.
The photography column, which runs each Saturday in Orange County Life, is intended to help both the serious amateur and weekend shooter. Questions and ideas are encouraged. Write to: Robert Lachman, Chief Photographer, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.