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Photography FAQs

Here at the UCLA Extension Photography program, we offer a variety of courses to improve your technical skills and your creative eye. Courses range from Introduction to Digital Photography to our Master Photographer Series, and can be taken individually or as part of a Certificate Program.

Below are some of the questions I often hear from students.

Q: Where can I see a list of the photography classes you will be offering?
A: You can download a PDF of the current catalog here.

Q: I’ve had my DSLR camera for a few years, and have done some independent shooting, but have never taken a class. How do I know what level I’m at?

A: Introduction to Digital Photography covers the following topics:

  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • Depth of Field
  • Focus
  • ISO
  • File management (including coverting files, tagging, file batching and archiving)
  • Basic Lighting Skills (including contrast, direction, color, white balance, histogram)
  • Composition (including framing and perspective)
  • Digital imaging (including an introduction to Adobe Lightroom)

If you feel confident in your knowledge of the topics listed, you are ready to move on to an intermediate-level course. If your understanding is hazy or you struggle with some of them, the introductory course would be the best place for you to refine your skills and get a solid foundation of technical understanding. Many students who are not technically “beginners” take an introductory class as a way to test their current abilities and for the challenge of assignments and instructor critique.

Q: What is the application process to take courses with UCLA Extension?

A: There is no formal application process. As the continuing education arm of UCLA, Extension courses are open enrollment. Students may enroll online, or by phone at (310) 825-9971.

Q: Who are your teachers?

A: Our instructors are professionals currently working in various fields of photography. They have valuable real-world experience that they are eager to share in the classroom. Most have online portfolios that can be found by searching their names.

Q: Can I transfer Extension class units to UCLA, or the grad program of my choice?

A: Maybe! That is entirely up to the admissions office of the school to which you are applying. They may ask you to e-mail course descriptions or class syllabi to an admissions counselor, which we would be happy to help you obtain. If you think you might want to try to transfer course units at some point, be sure to take your courses for a Letter Grade (as opposed to “Not for Credit”).

Q: Can I visit a class on the first meeting to see if I like it, even if I’m not enrolled?

A: Students may visit the first meeting of courses that are 10 weeks in duration or longer. However, many courses fill up quickly, so if you are interested in a course, it’s advisable to enroll early to ensure you get a space. All students must be enrolled by the second class meeting.

Q: How many students are there in each class?

A: An average class will probably have 15-18 students – the limit for most courses is 20.

Q: Who should I contact if I have more questions?

A: You can reach our office at (310) 206-1422, or send an e-mail to photography@uclaextension.edu.

Interview with Artist Jaime Ursic

I used to get a lot of phone calls asking if we have printmaking classes. At the time, we didn’t, and I would have to dash the hopes of our potential students. The office was desolate, and tumbleweeds rolled by my desk. Then instructor and printmaker extraordinaire Jaime Ursic rode in like John Wayne, there was a swell of music, and now we have Monoprinting.

There are so many great things to say about Jaime, but I picked three:

1. She built the press that she uses in class. With her hands. And a car jack.
2. She has really good handouts.
3. The work that the students produced in her last class was AMAZING. Really, it was fantastic, I am not exaggerating for blog purposes. If you don’t believe me, come to our student show and see some great examples for yourself.

Here is a picture of a happily printing student, and also a shot of the final projects, on display outside the classroom.

After seeing the students’ creations, I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about Jaime’s process and background with printmaking.

How did you get started with printmaking, and what draws you to it?

My first experience was an “Introduction to Intaglio Printmaking” class that was required. I dreaded the class before I started because I didn’t want to waste time with anything outside my painting studio and printmaking sounded like so much busy work. In the end, the dread turned into enthusiasm when I scratched into my first hard-ground plate.

The graphic control of the mark making and the complete submission to dropping it into acid hooked me. I fell in love with the entire process—from preparing the plate to drawing on the ground, then dropping it into the acid, inking and running it through a press. So many ways to change one image! The idea of multiples intrigued me and the world of variations I could create by printing the plate in different ways. It was as if I was an alchemist with no idea of what I was about to discover.

What mediums/materials do you enjoy working with? Is there a particular style that you prefer?

I began to play with monoprints as compositional sketches for paintings, using oil paint cut with clove oil. Soon I realized that what I enjoyed in the monoprints was a freshness and serendipity that I couldn’t achieve in a more labor-intensive painting. The light and color I could create with monoprinting was instantly gratifying along with rhythms and patterns that I could quickly adapt and essentially recreate. Color, shape, translucence, rhythm, and figure-ground relationships– all took on new meaning. And that was before I began experimenting with different papers, plate surfaces and inks.

My style is grounded in traditional observation but I pull from and abstract my visual influences on a daily basis. I was still interested in line and mark-making, but with monoprinting I could draw with anything I found (string, floss, beads, shards, hair, pompoms, jelly bracelets, etc.) Also, I could now push into the paper and even emboss forms to create a composition that was active in all directions, not just across the picture plane, but actually into it.

For students that are new to printmaking, what kinds of assignments do you start them off with in class?

Students experiment with a variety of techniques creating monoprints with a special emphasis on using line, tone and texture. In my monoprinting class, I begin students with technical examinations of the process and we discuss successful formal strategies for composition. Students experiment with the process and use the plate as a drawing surface, practice additive and reductive inking techniques, create collographs, chine collé, etc. Along with in class demonstrations, I cover the historical context of monoprinting, a bit of connoisseurship, and the role it can play in an artist’s studio practice.

What artists or other work in this genre inspires you?

The inspiration in monoprinting for me is its spontaneity, color translucence, and how it’s a hybrid combination of printmaking, painting, and drawing mediums.
Everything I see inspires my work in some way or another.

Whether it is in the mark, touch, tone, inking, or composition, the following artists provide continual inspiration: Rembrandt, Seghers, Castiglione, Blake, Goya, Degas, Cassatt, Gaugin, Prendergast, Morandi, Picasso, Bonnard, Chagall, Miró, Matisse and Kollowitz. Contemporary artists I look to for inspiration are: Maurico Lasansky, Terry Winters, Kiki Smith, Peter Milton, Donald Sultan, Jim Dine, and Chuck Close.

The work below is by Jaime – to see more examples, visit her excellent website, jaimeursic.com.

Student Photography by Dionne Harmon

So much great work came out of this class! Here are some images from another student in Roxann Arwen Mills’ class Master Photographer Series: Developing Personal Vision. Dionne’s commentary is included.

“The photo above and below were part of my digital diary assignment. Roxann asked us to document our lives over the course of one week and to really try and give the viewer a glimpse into our day-to-day routines. I took these two photos of my fiance Walt early one morning when we were getting out of bed.”

“This was one of my abstract pieces. The purpose of this assignment was to capture an object in clear focus that was non-representational. I came across this bright red neon arrow behind a clear plastic barrier, put my camera against the wall, and shot from behind the barrier so that I could capture not only the neon tubes but also their reflection on the plastic.”

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