Shannon Quigg

Staff Reporter

15 November 2020

He strolled over to the sink where a couple of his students were developing their film. He answered a few of their questions and then he was off into the darkroom, letting his eyes adjust to the shadowy room. As he walked through the room, he began inquiring about his students’ work and cracking jokes along the way. His next stop was the computer lab where a few students were modifying their digital photographs. He offered them tips, such as the best way to change the background of their picture. 

That was a typical photography class last year. Now, he sits in front of his computer, staring at students’ icons and listening mostly to the sound of his own voice. 

For many, the transition to virtual learning has been a difficult time. For a photography teacher who is trying to teach his students a wide variety of skills, it’s especially hard.

Modern technology has made digital photography as easy as clicking a button on your phone, but one of the things that made photography class special was learning how to use a film camera. Students in Photography classes would usually become familiar with 35mm film cameras, learn how to develop their film with chemicals, and learn about making prints in the darkroom.

“Since we can’t be together, I can’t do 85% of the material that I teach. It’s out the door. Can’t do it,” said Scott Brenfleck, who teaches photography and art classes at Atholton High School. “People don’t have sinks, they don’t have chemicals, they don’t have the dark room. So it is 100% impossible.”

Not only is film photography suffering from the virtual setting, but digital photography is as well. Jed Hobbs, a junior at Atholton High School who is currently taking Photo II, said that virtual classes are “a lot harder because not everyone has access to a camera.” 

Most high schoolers have their own smartphone that they can use to take pictures, but in photography classes, Mr. Brenfleck encourages students to use digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. These allow the user to manually change settings such as shutter speed and aperture.

According to Mr. Brenfleck, out of the 26 kids in his Photo I class this semester, he only has “six kids that do DSLR’s,” and one of those was a camera that he lent to the student. 

Despite these obstacles, he is trying to find the best ways to teach his students the material they would normally learn in his class by utilizing phone apps for photography. Mr. Brenfleck says that he’s been attempting to “find apps that allow you to manipulate and change your phone camera like you would a regular camera.” iPhone cameras don’t let the user manually change many settings, and 18 of his students use iPhones to take their photographs. 

“I found a perfect app for it,” Mr. Brenfleck said. “It was called ProCam X-Lite. And it was cool, you could set shutter speed, you could set everything, and guess what? Mac won’t let you.” With only two of his students using Samsung phones that are compatible with ProCam X-Lite, this app is unfortunately not available to most of the Photo I class. 

Mr. Brenfleck is determined to make the best of the class under the current circumstances and help students use photography to express their feelings about the world around them. 

“Photography is one of the best ways to show today’s current issues,” said Jed Hobbs, “because one picture can explain a whole story.”

Posted by Jumi Animashaun

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