Learn from the Best at Simonsen’s St. John School of Film and Photography

Steve Simonsen’s workshops will help you photograph like a professional.

Residents and tourists will have another chance to learn from the best when renowned local photographer Steve Simonsen launches the second year of his  St. John School of Film and Photography this month.

After a popular six-month run last year, Simonsen  will offer classes year-round in 2008. In addition to learning first-hand from one of the Caribbean’s most widely published photographers, at only $45 per workshop, Simonsen’s classes won’t hurt your wallet.

The first four-hour digital Tropical Light Photography class, on Saturday, January 12, starts at 8 a.m. and includes a hands-on lesson and practical application exercises.

“Basically the class is designed to help people who have any type of camera but mostly for people who have a point and shoot camera and just want to learn more about what it can do or what they can do to take better pictures,” said Simonsen.

“In the first workshop we’ll put the emphasis on St. John, like how to capture the blue water that people want to get,” he added.
The January 12 class, like most of the school’s photo workshops, will meet at the V.I. National Park’s visitor’s center before heading over to Hawksnest Beach for a hands-on demonstration, Simonsen explained.

“We sit at the picnic tables and do a hands-on lesson with the cameras and go over all of the buttons,” he said. “We also go into the menu and explain not just how to change a setting, but get people to understand how to operate their cameras.”

After going over the different digital camera applications, Simonsen takes the class to several North Shore Road locations to practice what they just learned.

“We want them to practice immediately what they were just introduced to,” said the photographer. “Each student should arrive with a particular problem — one thing they want to do and can’t — like taking pictures in front of back light or at night.”

“During the two-hour time on the North Shore, I open it up to each individual to come to me with their camera and we’ll solve their problem,” Simonsen said.

While Tropical Light Photography workshops are open to anyone with a digital camera, from beginners to advanced photographers, Simonsen also offers classes designed specifically for the better-than-average picture taker.

“The Beyond Automatic Setting class is for people with a digital SLR,” said Simonsen. “The class is for people who have spent the time and money on a digital camera already and want to just get better. It’s more of an extended personal lesson or it could be the perfect follow-up to the first class.”

In addition to the digital photography classes offered each month, Simonsen will also conduct monthly snorkel photography workshops. Class participants, who must have a camera capable of underwater photography to enroll, will receive a two-hour lesson and then head into the water for two hours of practice at either Hawksnest or Trunk Bay.

Simonsen is also finalizing a schedule for computer classes at the Gifft Hill School, where he will offer two-hour evening instruction about the finer points of iTunes, iPod and iPhoto.

“These classes are for people who already own an iPod and don’t feel like they understand it and for people who grew up a little afraid of computers, but still want to get an iPod or iTunes,” said Simonsen. “We’ll go over how to keep our music in order and how much more the iTunes and iPods can really do.”

People with personal computers are welcome at the iPod and iTunes classes, but only Mac owners can take part in the iPhoto classes.

“The iPhoto class is a two-hour workshop that focuses on once you’ve taken pictures, what do you do with them next,” said the photographer. “How to resize pictures for email, how to print, how to add captions and organize a life’s work of images.”

Simonsen will also offer an advanced 16-week course on final cut pro video editing which will meet two evenings per week.

“We will work with professional footage which has already been shot and we’ll cover all the steps of editing,” said Simonsen.

The 16-week advanced editing course runs about $400 and will start in mid-January.

The photographer was inspired to launch the St. John School of Film and Photography after attending a school himself in Maine.

“I have attended classes at the Maine Photographic Workshop and I’ve always admired their program,” said Simonsen. “I thought St. John would be a great place to have something like that because of the creative people who live here and visit here.”

While Simonsen — who has taught at the Gifft Hill School for several years — envisions his school eventually becoming a fully-accredited course for college study, for now the local photographer is enjoying the role of instructor.

“I enjoy teaching the classes because I realize the satisfaction of learning new things,” he said. “I took the time to learn these things myself and I find it very liberating. You can create anything you want and it share it with anyone.”

For more information about St. John School of Film and Photography classes or to enroll in a workshop, email Simonsen at ssimonsen@mac.com.