Through the lens of travel photography

By Dominic Chamberlain

Sports Editor

“This will be the best class you ever take at Canisius.”

That’s one of the first things Professor Tom Wolf said to his FAS 142 when classes started for this spring semester. That seems like pretty big talk for a 100-level class, but boy, has that statement lived up to the hype.

The FAS 142 class is called Travel Photography and, once you look at the course description, you’ll see why Wolf said that. The class itself is like any other class at Canisius; you meet once a week on Mondays from 6:00 p.m to 8:45 p.m. Wolf will usually use this time to lecture, show photographs, or even go over how to use a DSLR camera, which is a required material for the course.

The major selling point of this class is the “travel” portion of Travel Photography, because once you register for the class, you also register for a 13-day long trip to Naples, Italy.

Leaving on March 9 this year, I was a part of that trip along with 12 other Canisius students and Wolf. The journey starts when you and your luggage arrive at Lyons Hall to get on a bus and go to the Toronto Pearson International Airport. Once at the airport, you check into the flight and wait for your overnight flight to Europe. After a full day of travel, you land in Naples and the fun begins.

We checked into our four star hotel, the Hotel San Francesco al Monte, which had a beautiful view of Naples and the looming volcano, Mt. Vesuvius.  The first stop once settling in was a pizzeria for a late lunch and our first taste of “real pizza.” After that, our guide/translator, Usha Waygood, led us around a quick tour of the city.

Day two is when the photography aspect really began. The class is a photography class, so students are required to bring their cameras on the trip and take pictures of the activities done throughout the day. These pictures are taken to help compile the final project for the class, which is a photography book with your pictures from Italy that are also centered around a theme.

Early in the trip, we took photos of street life, in and around a castle, nightlife down on the Naples waterfront, and many more things.

Wolf also gives students an assignment sheet full of photography tasks that students have to complete throughout the day.

“The assignments more than anything are meant to create little sparks,” said Wolf. “For example, one of the things that students will just notoriously do is they see a beautiful scene, you hold up the camera and take a photograph. So the negative space assignment forces students to think about the way they compose that scene.”

Wolf revolves these assignments around what the planned activity is for that day; the first assignment was what he called a scavenger hunt, where students are instructed to take certain types of photos throughout the day. Since the second day involved seeing many different scenes, such as the castle or an intersection with multiple street vendors, it’s the perfect day to have students experiment with different types of shots.

But the trip gets better; the class travels to Guardia to spend most of the day at a vineyard to learn about wine and to even work the vineyard, cleaning vines and tying the cleaned vines up so they can grow more grapes.

This is all done under the watchful eye of Ernesto, an 80-year-old man who owns and still operates the vineyard himself, along with his family. After spending a few hours in the vineyard, we returned to where Ernesto and his family process the wine for lunch. After, we walked around the town before returning to Naples.

The next day was a personal favorite; we hiked down to a farm owned by a man named Peppe. We spent most of the day on his farm, taking in the simply breathtaking views, walking around his land, and even making our own pizzas for lunch. To cap it all off, we even had a chance to swim in the frigid blue waters of the Mediterranean.

The next day gave the class “the Walk of the Gods,” which is a beautiful hike along the Amalfi Coast that ends in picturesque town of Positano. The walk is long, especially if you run into a group of goats that are trying to walk in the opposite direction you are, and walking down 1,000 steps to Positano to end the hike doesn’t help either. It does, however, make for some amazing views and photos.

The next day, the class left Naples to spend a few days on the island of Capri. Once again, the class stayed at a four star hotel on the island and the rest of the island did not disappoint either. Capri was full of designer stores like Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Louis Vuitton (to name a few). The time on Capri included yet more hiking (this time literally down the side of the highest point on the island), playing a game that the class actually came up with, and even finding an “Irish Pub” to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in.

After the days on Capri, the class returned to Naples, now with an extra day in the city thanks to an air traffic controllers’ strike.

After spending a day with primarily free time, the class had two days left in Italy. The second-to-last day was spent at Mt. Vesuvius, climbing up the active volcano, and then enjoying lunch at Cantina del Vesuvio where we learned about their winemaking process and enjoyed a wine pairing meal.

The last day was spent in the town of Herculaneum, visiting the ruins from the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius.

Another major aspect of the trip, aside from the stunning visuals, was the food. Pizza, pasta, and seafood were seemingly on every menu of every restaurant we visited. We dined at “nice” restaurants such as Chez Black in Positano or a waterfront seafood restaurant in Naples, but also just walked into pizza places we stumbled across. Some restaurants allowed people to come in and sing during the meals for tips. Two of such performers really drove home the fact that I’m from America with one performance that saw them turn my Team USA hockey hat around backwards during a rousing rendition of “Tu Vuò Fa’ L’Americano.”

Another restaurant saw Fabio Zizolfi and his family welcome us into his home for a night of music and food that was even streamed to Facebook Live. Our class’s dinner has over 1,000 views on facebook.

That’s just a very brief and general experience of our trip. Over the course of the trip, I took over 3,000 pictures that will have to be scrolled through as the next phase of the class begins.

We now will look at our pictures and decide which shots are going to go into our picture books.

But all of this doesn’t come without a price. The class is another $3,300 added onto your tuition bill. Past that, you’ll need a DSLR camera. You can rent a camera for the semester from the Canisius College Media Center or provide yourself with your own camera, but they aren’t exactly cheap. Add in the power converter you’ll need to charge your devices, changing over your cellular plan, and any spending money comes out of your pocket; with that also comes the exchange rate from dollars to euros, and you spend your entire spring break, and then some, in Italy away from friends and family.

And while that may not sound appealing to all, Wolf has seen firsthand how close the class can become during this trip. “Something I think people get from this trip, too, is meeting other students that you would never otherwise bond with,” he said. “And I don’t think I’d be going off the road here to say that your class… You’re all friends now, and how many of you were friends before this started? You’ll probably be close life long friends with a few of those people, and I don’t think you get that from something like a study abroad.”

It’s not all negatives though. If you didn’t care about buying souvenirs, or anything in Naples for that matter, you could go the entire trip without spending a dime past your tuition fee. That fee includes all transportation, lodging, and all food (lunch and dinner; hotels have complimentary breakfast).

First and foremost, this class is about photography and learning how to effectively operate a camera. Wolf also makes it very clear that while in Italy, you are in class. You are expected to take pictures, use your imagination, be creative, and to think of how to get that “wow” picture. But you also learn about a new city and a different culture, you meet new people, and you make memories for a lifetime. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience, and we all have the pictures to prove it.

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