I’m Caroline Maryan.
I’m a travel photographer and blogger and the founder of Camera Mechanics Workshops where I help busy camera owners just like you understand the buttons, dials, and modes on their cameras so they can enjoy photography and take photos they love.
It was a birthday gift, just before we took a family trip to Washington, DC, and Colonial Williamsburg. I was so excited about it that I still have the photos I took during that trip. They’re easy to find since I labeled them in emerald green ink (spelling doesn't count!) and put them in a bright red scrapbook. One of my favorites is a photo of a carriage that I rode in, with the driver standing in front, because it brings back such happy memories of adventure. And the one of my mom and my aunt in the stocks in Colonial Williamsburg? That one’s priceless!
Photography remained my favorite hobby as I grew up, but it was only a hobby. My first career was as an elementary school teacher, and I followed that by becoming a software engineer.
I loved my second job! I could combine my teaching background with my technical knowledge when I worked with clients. I had so much fun explaining complex software and design problems in plain English and watching their faces light up when they understood!
During this time, I also had a side-gig. I was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader for 11 years! This was the perfect preparation for becoming a photography teacher. If I bored those seven squirrelly boys in my house, I was in trouble. So, I figured out how to make learning fun.
I wanted to record everything he did and my trusty Brownie camera was always close at hand!
When he was almost three, I hired a professional photographer to take a family portrait and fell in love with the quality of the image. We shot the photo outdoors and I was so surprised by the blurry background and by how we seemed to jump off the page. I had no idea how to achieve that look but I was hooked!
Our photographer couldn’t have been nicer as he patiently explained that I would have to upgrade to a better camera with manual controls, so I put that on my list and continued to try to capture great photos with the camera I had.
A few years later, I could finally afford my first SLR camera, a Canon A-1 that shot film.
Unfortunately, I quickly realized that using it on any setting but Auto felt like rocket science! The manual was full of jargon that I didn’t understand and when I looked around for a photography class in our area, I couldn’t find one.
In the end, I memorized a few settings and celebrated every time I got a great shot! I was making progress, but it was slow and painful!
We were now living in Seoul, South Korea, and I signed up for a photography trip to China. Our group would be visiting three cities with a professional photographer along to coach us. I was finally going to learn. Best of all, I was going to be able to see the results right away because I now had a digital camera.
We started in Shanghai. The first night, after dinner, one of my fellow travelers said he was going to walk down to the river to take a night photo of the skyline. I jumped at the chance to go along. In the end, there were three of us. I was armed with my brand new tripod. This was my chance to try night photography with a slow shutter speed, which I had never done! I figured I’d just ask the other two people what settings they were using.
As we arrived, the skyline was lit up with a colorful lightshow. We all quickly set up our tripods. (OK, I was a bit slower. I’d never tried doing this at night!) I tried my various memorized settings, but the results were awful, so I asked for help.
I still laugh when I think about it how that went!
I had a Canon camera and they both had Nikons. The dials worked in opposite directions! The buttons and menus were different. They didn’t know that and neither did I. The more I tried what they suggested, the worse the photos got. Finally, I decided to wing it and just reverse what they were suggesting. When I had finally reached the right setting and was about to take the perfect photo of the evening, the lightshow turned off. I still got a passable night shot, but it was boring. I had missed the iconic shot of Shanghai!
I spent the rest of the trip trying to absorb everything I was being taught, and when I returned to Seoul, I signed up for a photography class.
Our teacher was a kind and well-respected Korean fine-art photographer, but she answered our questions with, “Read your manual!!!” Yes, there really were three exclamation points at the end of her sentence! You learned not to ask.
Strangely, it was during this time that photography clicked for me. I suddenly understood how the different parts of the exposure triangle worked and what settings to use for different scenes and on and on. It was as though my brain exploded! I carried my camera everywhere with me and practiced constantly.
I also started offering to help my friends with their camera questions. Thank goodness for my technology and teaching background!
Finally, in 2011, with the help and encouragement of my photography friends, I taught my first workshop in Seoul, through an international women’s organization.
I loved the challenge and learned so much from my students! We were all in the same boat, trying to take photos we love. I was just a few steps ahead of them, so I understood what they needed to learn. And more than anything, I wanted to save them time!
By the time we left Seoul, I was teaching four days a week, and because of these classes, I’ve taught people from every continent but Antarctica!
I also had a chance to return to Shanghai before we left Seoul and come away with many iconic shots!
Over the years, I've taught over 70 different camera makes and models!
Best of all, I’ve recorded my signature Camera Mechanics Workshop so it’s available online. This means you can learn at your own pace, rewatch classes when you want and even take it again if you buy a new camera!
My students love watching the short videos and having time to practice each skill. There’s no need to travel to take the course, either. All you need is access to the internet.
Are you curious about the workshop or any other opportunities I’m offering? Click here to learn more and let's work together!
Talk to you soon!