Photography Class – Sunflowers

In a previous blog post here, I talked about a fabulous photography class I took with a friend that took place at a Franciscan monastery. I learned so much about my camera and lighting and had a fabulous time. So much so that we decided to take another photography class, this time taking photos at a sunflower field in Potomac, Maryland.

We showed up at 4:30 in the morning at the meeting place and reached the sunflower field around 5:00 am. (Those of you who know me will realize how eager I was to take the class, given my philosophy that morning doesn’t start until it hits double digits.) We were fortunate in the weather—instead of the usual hot and humid sticky weather that is typical for mid-July, it was surprisingly mild and dry.

It was still dark when we arrived at the sunflower field, and this gave us an opportunity to take photos while “painting” the sunflowers with flashlights. This is a bit of a hit-and-miss prospect, but I did have a couple that turned out pretty well.

"painting" the sunflowers

“painting” the sunflowers

More fascinating was the color of the sky as the sun began to rise. When looking at it with the naked eye, the sky appears gray and a bit colorless. But as you can see from the photo, the camera sees it as a beautiful shade of purple-blue. I wasn’t thrilled with any of the photos I took with the sky that color, but I do love the shade of blue that the sky is that time of day as seen by the camera.


The sky was a bit overcast that day, so we never actually got to see the sunflowers turn towards the sun. But it did mean the lighting was more interesting than if the sun was shining brightly. I was pleased to see that some of my photos came out pretty well. A little more artsy than my normal photography but fun, nevertheless. And a wonderful opportunity to play with my new camera (a Nikon D800), various lenses (including a Sigma 50 mm lens that I borrowed from one of the instructors and my macro lens), and my new tripod.





Elliot Stern and Brian Zwit, the instructors, are great at helping you when you want help with setting up a shot or using your equipment and leaving you alone, if you want to be left alone. They never make you feel stupid and are incredibly generous with their expertise.

However, the best part of the class was spending time with my friend, Joanne Kelly. We had a wonderfully leisurely dinner at Jaleo in Bethesda the night before the classand breakfast after the class at Founding Farmer. The food was lovely at both places (especially Jaleo), but the company was even better!

You can find out more about the classes being offered at

Photography Class – Franciscan Monastery

A lovely friend of mine gave me as a birthday gift a photography class put on by a company called the School of Creative Photography ( We spent several hours at a Franciscan monastery in northeast Washington, DC taking photos of the monastery and the surrounding grounds (who knew there was a Franciscan monastery in DC, let alone in northeast DC?).

I learned more in those few hours than I could have possibly imagined. And I had forgotten how fun this hobby is when you have the time to really think about light and composition and the settings on your camera (as opposed to yelling at people to stay still while you take their photograph and doing it in as much of a hurry as you can because they won’t stand still). Not that my family has any idea of whom I might be talking about.

I’ve put in a few of my favorite photos that I took during this class. I am also including a couple of “before Photoshop” and “after Photoshop” photos. Elliot and Brian, our two instructors, insist that using software is not cheating, but after looking at what our daughter could do with Photoshop, I am not convinced.

Franciscan monastery garden

Franciscan monastery garden



before shot:

a "before shot"

a “before ” shot

after Photoshop:

the "after" shot

the “after” shot

another “before” shot:

the "before" shot

the “before” shot

the “after” shot:

the "after" shot

the “after” shot

Anyway, I highly recommend taking a class from these guys—they are super nice and super knowledgeable. They’re really great also because if you want to be left alone, they leave you alone. But if you want help or advice from them, they are full of really helpful hints and instruction.

And thank you, Joanne, for the lovely birthday gift!