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Sound Bites - Issue #24 - August 2015


New Career Programs: Leadership & Info Technology!

Michelle King, Director Community and Contract Ed Michelle King, Director
Career & Contract Ed.

We’re excited to announce that we are doubling our career training and professional development offerings – all to expand job opportunities and advancement in high-demand, good-paying fields – to our community.

Joining our Paralegal Academy and Customer Service Academy, starting in January, will be the Leadership Certificate Program and Cisco Technologies Academy.

The Leadership Certificate program offers two tracks – Frontline Manger Certification and Mastering Management Skills Certification. Each track consists of six modules that span topics such as “Dealing with Difficult People” and “Directing Change in the Workplace”.

Students in The Cisco Technologies Academy can gain new skills in-demand in the Information Technology profession. The program will offer training to professionals seeking to advance their skills as well as courses for those seeking entry-level job skills. 

All of these career training and professional development programs will come under a new umbrella, SMC Extension. The new name will help identify these programs as distinct.

I’m planning to host an SMC Extension launch event and create a professional development advisory board to help energize this new program. Stay tuned for details!

In the meantime, we hope you’ll join us this fall. Registration is easy by calling (310) 434-3400, going to, or emailing

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career & Contract Education



Alice Meyering, Program Coordinator, Community and Contract Ed Alice Meyering,
Program Coordinator
Community & Contract Education

What's New: Amazing Story Behind
Incredible Photo

As we are enjoying our usual sunny weather here in SoCal, I am reminded that the fall semester is about to start at the end of this month! Our fall class schedules were mailed out in late July, but if you didn’t get yours, feel free to email to request a copy. 

Dean Reyes - Photo Contest Winner Dean Reyes 
Photo Contest Winner

When I started the crazy idea of hosting our first Photo Contest for the cover of our Fall Class Schedule, I never imagined that it would continue to create buzz months after the winning image was selected. Dean Reyes’ “Observatory at Night” is an amazing shot that captured the Griffith Observatory and Downtown L.A. in a fantastical, dreamy haze, but it appears that some believe it to be too fantastical. Some speculated it had to have been Photoshopped.

Because I feel the public deserves to know, I have requested Dean to spill his “trade secrets” on how he captured this winning image, without Photoshop or special effects. It is one photo, captured through some old-fashioned hard work under extremely challenging conditions. Here is Dean’s detailed account, complete with additional photos:

It was quite the learning experience for me to take that shot so if anybody else can learn from my experience, I'm more than willing to share my little story behind it. And for me it was quite an adventure because after sundown I heard animals howling (most likely coyotes) and I couldn’t wait to finish taking my photo to run back to the observatory parking lot. Back then I thought it was crazy to stay out there alone in the dark just to get the photos but we know now it was definitely worth it!

Dean Reyes' Observatory at Night with settingsDean Reyes’ photo of Griffith Observatory
at night with settings

I had hiked the Griffith Park Hollywood trail dozens of times during the day and have always wanted to take a picture at that area at night. I thought the Griffith Observatory photo would be cool because it aligns with the tall downtown LA buildings in the background at a particular spot on the trail, which is a 20-minute hike from the parking lot. (See photo).

When Larry Jones, our instructor, assigned our class to take night photos, I thought that would be the perfect and apply what I learned from class. I hiked to the spot late in the afternoon and waited for the sun to go down. I set up my camera on a tripod and I was planning for a long exposure shot.

When the sun went down, I took several photos and noticed that the pictures that I took were blurry. I had learned in Jones’ class that for long exposure shots, it's crucial that the camera does not move. So I put the camera on delay timer mode to give the camera time to stabilize a bit on the tripod after I press the shutter button.

Meanwhile, the wind was blowing hard since I was so high up the mountain. Good thing I remembered another tip I learned from class. Jones shared with us that when he takes his long exposure shots, he hovers over the camera with his jacket to block the wind blowing on it and make sure that the wind does not rock the tripod.

I tried it and it worked but there was still a slight blur on the pictures so I think the camera was still moving. The other problem, I realized, was that since I was shooting at a long focal length (my lens was zoomed to the max at 300mm and protrudes out of the camera a lot), the camera/lens weight was unbalanced on my flimsy tripod so it moved slightly when the camera shutter opened and closed (the 'click' sounds the camera makes during the shot) and causes the blur.

iPhone photo of the spot where Dean Reyes took the Observatory shotiPhone photo of the spot where Dean Reyes took the Observatory shot

Again, I learned from class to improvise and work with what's available around me so I took the camera off the tripod and laid it on a firm spot on the ground, next to some big rocks to support the long lens and I used my lens cap to level the camera. (See photo bottom right.)

I lied down on the ground, framed my shot, hovered over the camera with my sweater to block the wind, put the delay timer on and took the picture. Eureka, it worked! I thought I'd take a couple more shots with different camera settings before I ran back to the parking lot.

As I mentioned before, I was doing all this alone in the dark on an unlit trail with animals howling around me.

Dean Reyes’ camera Dean Reyes’ camera had to be steadied in the night wind to capture the stunning Griffith Observatory

And then, something else happened: The observatory just suddenly went dark – most of the lights illuminating the building were turned off. I found out later that the observatory had a special star-viewing event that night. A couple of powerful telescopes had been set up on the lawn area, and in order to optimize the viewing experience, the lights had to be turned off. I was really lucky that I was able to troubleshoot and take the observatory photo I've always wanted just in time before they flipped off the light switch! 

Lessons learned: 1. Take Larry Jones' photo class, 2. Work with what you got and your surroundings, 3. Try to plan ahead for any obstacles (get to the site early before they turn off the lights), and 4. Bring a friend along to your photo shoots so you'll have a lookout just in case there are wild animals around!



Cellphone Photography Excursion: Camera Magic!By G. Bruce Smith

Students experiment with cellphone cameras Students experiment with their cell phone cameras

Like many people, I’m amazed by the quality of photos that can be taken on cell phones. Apple has even capitalized on its iPhone photography capability by running huge billboard ads with striking images (presumably taken by ordinary citizens) and the simple but arresting caption: Taken on an iPhone.

An iPhone 6 owner myself, I, too, have been pleased with some of the pictures I snap on my mobile device. I don’t bother with a camera any more; the iPhone is just fine, thank you very much.

However, I’m not completely satisfied with my photography skills, and so I signed up for the “Tourist for a Day: Cellphone Photography” class taught by Brian Leng. It was a rare rainy day in July, so Brian canceled the class (it’s rescheduled for Sept. 19). But because some of us did not get the cancellation email, we showed up and he gave us some tips and set us loose to shoot around Olvera Street and other locales around Union Station in downtown L.A.

Even before we met up with Brian, he told us to download the BeFunky app on our phones, a terrific photo editor/image manipulator application that is great fun to play around with. Aside from all kinds of editing functions (cropping, fill light, softening, exposure, etc.), the app allows you to do touch ups, create effects, add text, create collages and more.

Brian Leng’s photo is manipulated to create a completely different kind of imageBrian Leng’s photo is manipulated to create a completely different kind of image

Here are some takeaways from the introductory lesson Brian gave us at the iconic Philippe the Original restaurant across from Union Station, famous for its French Dip sandwiches:

• Buy a portable back-up charger, particularly if you plan to spend a whole day taking photos. They’re available online and at many retail outlets, including Costco.

• Each phone is different, so experiment, try different things. Take an image with flash and without – and compare the results. Cameras will always expose for the lightest part of the picture, so be aware of shooting into objects or people that are backlit.

• Holding your phone steadily is important, so if your camera has voice command, use it. Or you can use a timer, or put your elbows down on a surface, or even steady yourself against a wall. Any of these methods can create clearer, better images.

Brian did not give us direct advice on which phone is best for images, but as much of an Apple loyalist I am – and as impressive as Apple’s iPhone images on billboards are – I’ve been struck by the quality of photos taken on Androids. Honestly, I think they are better than iPhone shots. And Brian showed me his Samsung, whose camera comes with a whole bunch of controls not found on my iPhone 6 – including Voice Command, Exposure, ISO, White Balance and Metering Modes.

Mind you, I’m not ready to switch to an Android, but for those of you contemplating purchasing a new phone, it’s something you might consider.

I’d highly recommend taking the class in September, not only to sharpen your photographic skills, but also to discover – or rediscover – some wonderful downtown sites.

Pico House-before & afterPhoto of Pico House at Olvera Street is manipulated in
the phone app BeFunky to create what looks like a
drawing, not a photograph