Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 30, 2012

From studio to classroom ...

Bluefield photographer aspires to teach others through the lens

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Behind the camera lens, Hal Brainerd, 64, is on auto pilot. He knows his profession so well, he doesn’t even have to think about the art of photography or how to achieve the perfect lighting for a photo. Well known for his stunning landscapes and portraits, Brainerd said he often feels he is a part of an assembly line after 43 years as a professional photographer.

But Brainerd is stepping away from the camera and into the classroom at Southwest Virginia Community College in Richlands, Va.

“It is a big change for me,” Brainerd said.

He admits to being a bit apprehensive at first. Brainerd wasn’t sure how he would combine teaching and photography. Last semester, he taught a basic photography class, kind of testing the waters. He was surprised, he said.

“I thoroughly enjoyed teaching,” he said.

Brainerd felt refreshed by the change and when he was approached to resume teaching and add another class, he accepted. Starting in the spring semester, he will teach two photography classes — basic photography and photo editing.

His photo editing class is unique.

“By utilizing numerous software programs beginners, as well as, professionals can excel and develop professional images. Students can progress at their own pace and those who wish to advance in Photoshop will. Although the software is for beginners, it will certainly create professional images,” Brainerd said, in a press release from the college.

Photography has become a mainstream hobby for many individuals, Brainerd said.

He said the ease of digital cameras, the use of photography in media and marketing and our love of friends and family photos have all contributed the hobby’s rise in popularity. But he said there is still a lot to learn, despite the dozens of point-and-shoot cameras on the market.

For example, many people don’t change the camera settings, adjust shutter speed or take a look at the histograph, a graphic chart on the LCD screen of the camera.

“The histograph will tell you if the shadows and highlights are exposed properly,” he said.

Brainerd said a histograph is one of the most important parts of a digital camera.

“Digital photos have made such a big change,” he said “ ... Digital is wonderful, but it is complicated.”

Brainerd’s Gallery in Bluefield remains open. It has been a challenge to balance the two, Brainerd said.

“This is just an extremely busy time of year,” he said. “I have been surprised how long it takes to put together a three-hour lecture with the pictures. It takes a lot of time, but once I get these lectures together, it will be easier.”

Brainerd started his career in Washington, D.C., in the U. S. Army’s color lab. He later managed Oklahoma’s oldest and largest commercial studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His experience and commitment to photography is evident in his landscapes and portraits.

“At my age, it is time to pass along whatever I can, for others to excel in the field,” he said.