Posts Tagged ‘St. Petersburgh Russia’


I’m taking a short course on photography at the university, trying to improve some of the skills required for my work. It’s an informal class, 8 or 10 people from different departments meeting for 90 minutes twice a week. Many of us have these fancy digital cameras that we don’t know how to use. We turn the dial to auto, take a photo, and sometimes it turns out well and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t know why.

The man who is trying to teach us the mysteries behind the complicated settings is a retired Russian mechanical engineer, who came to the US from St. Petersburgh, in the Soviet Union, 30 years ago. He is old enough to have lived through World War II, and though he missed the terrible Siege of Leningrad, he told me that his wife had lived through it from beginning to end. I asked him about Russian poetry, and he mentioned Pushkin.  Every Russian knows some poetry; it’s like the music of popular songs to us, in the air.

Rafael Izakov, the teacher, told us about joining a photography club as a young teenager in St. Petersburgh after the war. He was younger than the other members, and he apprenticed with them, a good way to learn. They went through the city taking their photos and then met to critique and share techniques. The cameras were simple, but often the photos were stunning. Get rid of the auto (which he pronounces owta), he says.

I am learning something about depth of field, white balance, f stops and the mathematical ratios between shutter speed and aperture. Mostly I am enjoying the story my imagination is conjuring of the Russian boy roaming the streets of the city of Czars in the time of Stalin, with a camera in his hand.

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