About Randy

Randy PortraitThe New First an Amateur

When I started First an Amateur back-in-the-day (August 2015) I had decided to dive into photography to try to learn how to be a “real photographer.”  And I  have learned a lot since then.  What I am going to try to do now (almost 5 years later) is to add to this website and share the new insights of what I have learned.

I haven’t added anything to the website in the last 4 years, but I have given my “photo growth” lots of thought.  Back in 2015, I sent out a survey to a couple of dozen photographers asking them what helped them improve, and I shared their comments with you in the original First an Amateur.  Since then I regularly gave thought to what was helping me improve.  Now I hope I might be able to help you grow by sharing my findings.  If you are an amateur photographer who has improved over the years, please take the time to share what you learned and how you learned it with me so I can pass it on.  If you are just starting to get involved, we will try our best to bring you along.  Please understand that “It ain’t easy” but I’m confident you can improve if you make a commitment and stick to it – it worked for me and will work for you.

Randy’s Education & Photography History

I suppose you could say I’ve been an “amateur photographer” all of my adult life. But most of my pictures were simply point-and-shoot shots without any real understanding of photography. Yea, I was a “photographer” for my college yearbook but my “photos” weren’t very good.   I never took a photography or art class and never really knew anything other than how to process a B&W photo in the darkroom.

After finishing graduate school I spent the next 40 years teaching Educational Psychology at Indiana University South Bend.  I studied and taught the teaching-learning process, especially motivation, to pre-service teachers.  I enjoyed every minute helping others learn, especially students who sometimes struggled.   I created a peer mentor program where my best education students volunteer to work with me to teach my educational psychology class; they helped me understand the student side and I helped them understand the teaching side … and it worked.

In retirement, I worked fairly regularly to try to learn to be a serious amateur photographer.  I had hoped to use my passion for teaching and motivation to bring others along with me on my journey by sharing what and how I was learning photography in my First an Amateur blog (essentially Stage #1).  Now I hope I can share with you what I and my fellow amateur photographers have learned as we enter Stage #2.  There were some key variables that helped me that I will share and I hope sharing these variables might help some of you.  If you are interested in joining me on this journey come on along, there will be no tuition … although I may give you some homework 😉

A New Peer Mentor Program

My experience developing a peer mentor program at my university showed me that people learn best in a respectful environment which encourages people to improve by giving them support, challenges, and constructive feedback.  After launching my First an Amateur blog in 2015 and joining the Teton Photography Club, I decided to try to create a Peer Mentor Program for amateur photographers like myself.  The 8 of us started together with a photoshoot and a monthly photo critique and the program grew to more than two dozen in a little over a year.  We Advanced Together with lots of support as we learned together …  and now I’d like to share how we learned with a new Blog.

Our Peer Mentor Program is made up of two groups with each group having about 20 amateur photographers.  Recently I asked them to complete a survey of what they learned and how they learned to become a better photographer.  I can’t guarantee that I can accurately share what exactly helped everyone but I can share with readers many of the activities and interactions that the peer mentors have stated seem to work for them.  If you would like to learn more about our Teton Photography Club Peer Mentor Program please check us out.  If you live in the area near the Grand Teton NP full-time or part-time, please contact me through the Teton Photography Club website and I will be glad to talk with you about joining the program.  For those of you who are not lucky like me to live near the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone NP, I hope I can share how the peer mentors and I have Learned Together.