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Retrospective 2020: My Life as a Student

I completed several courses and workshops in 2019, including two weeks in Durham, North Carolina for documentary studies intensive workshops, but in 2020 I surpassed that. I started the year out focusing on photography with a photo a day challenge. In the past, my philosophy was to take images that were good “out of the camera” but I finally realized that even Ansel Adams spent a fair amount of time post-processing. So I focused on learning Photoshop, Lightroom, and a number of other tools. Given that I was at home, I tried to develop skills in still life and macro, as travel wasn’t possible. (Image: The Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, North Carolina.)

The Center for Documentary Studies went to online, so I was able to pick up another 16 credits towards a documentary studies certification. And then, after weekly wine session with friends (via Zoom) I decided I should buckle down and learn something more about wine than simply to drink it. The courses I took through Napa Valley Wine Academy were challenging—lots of history and memorization which are not my strong suits. Yet, I persevered, learned a lot and even received the Napa Valley Wine Expert certification which allows me to put an honorific after my name. Perhaps one day I’ll be able lead wine tours! (Image: Certificate earned from passing NVWE exam.)

I love Irish music, so I continued lessons with the Online Academy of Irish Music, to which I’ve subscribed since 2019. This year, in addition to penny whistle, I dusted off my guitar and learn accompaniment for a variety of pub songs. Then I put my guitar into “Irish” D tuning and learned a few fingerpicking songs. I ended the year by starting lessons on the Low D whistle, which has a much more mellifluous sound than the higher penny whistle. It’s also suited for haunting melodies. (Image: Logo of the Online Academy of Irish Music.)

When I’ve traveled to Spanish speaking countries, I’ve regretted not knowing Spanish. I don’t pick up languages easy unless they are computer programming languages, so I decided to try the Pimsleur method. I made it through level 1 and am three-quarters of the way through level 2. By the time I get to travel, I might actually know enough Spanish to use it.

A musician friend of mine in Los Angeles encouraged me to join the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC) as an associate so that I could attend their webinars. After sitting in on a few live, interactive sessions, I was inspired to take film scoring and composition courses. Not that I am planning to start scoring films, but just to understand the business and maybe to doodle out a few tunes for my own amusement.

This list below is fairly complete except for the “grab-and-go” learning I did through watching specific how-to videos on You Tube..

Documentary Studies


  • Wine Fundamentals, Napa Valley Wine Academy. A six-module course on winemaking, wine regions of the world, wine tasting, storing, and serving. Passed exam.

  • Napa Valley Wine Expert (certification), Napa Valley Wine Academy. A five-module course on Napa history, appellations, climate, terrior, grape growing, and wine making. Passed exam and awarded certificate.

  • Phenols and Tannins, Andy Schweitzer. A fascinating look at the molecular chemistry behind tannins and why some are desirable and some are not.

  • Corks, Andy Schweitzer. An in-depth look at the cork industry, the details of making corks, what causes cork taint, and other options for closing wine bottles.


  • Irish Guitar Accompaniment, Online Academy of Irish Music

  • Penny Whistle, Online Academy of Irish Music

  • Low-G Whistle, Online Academy of Irish Music, lessons in progress

  • Soundtrack Composer Masterclass, Udemy, Chester Sky.

  • Composition & Film Scoring, Udemy, Jason Allen, course in progress.

Photography Courses

  • The History of Photography, Photographic Society of America. A 16-lesson course with weekly assignments and feedback from the instructor.

  • Sill Life Photography, Photographic Society of America. A 6-lesson course with weekly assignments and feedback from the instructor.

  • Unlocking the Magic of Photoshop, Click Photo School, Mickey DeVries

  • Edit Photos Like a Pro in Lightroom & Photoshop, Matt Kloskowski

  • Advanced Texture Cleanup Using Frequency Separation 2.0, ProEdu, Earth Oliver

Photography Webinars

  • Global Landscape Photography, Frank Smith

  • Artistic Floral Photography Webinar, Jackie Kramer, PSA

  • Nature Photography in High-Key Style, Lisa Langell

  • Wabi Sabi, Lisa Cuchara

  • Macro and Close Up Photography, Shiv Varma

  • Anonymous: How To Shoot Street Photography Without Revealing Your Subjects , Valérie Jardin

  • Light Painting and Drawing at Night, Jürgen Lobert (PSA)

  • The Power of Hubble in Your Camera Bag, Scott Donschikowski (LGSCC)

  • Adobe MAX conference, attended various presentations


  • Spanish, Pimsleur. Level1 completed. Level 2 lessons in progress.

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