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Learning by Doing on the Bay

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The sun rises on the Chesapeake Bay
Cosima Amelang captured the stories and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay through Classroom in the Wild.

I learned how to use a GoPro at about 6am, sitting in the passenger seat of Vanina [Harel]’s car, racing against the sun to learn how to make a time-lapse. Each morning, Jamey [Warner] and Vanina would lead our sleepy group out to a bridge on Wye Island to view the sunrise and capture it in whatever way inspired us – photo, video, audio, iPhone… That was one of my favorite things about the course: there was no strict timeframe to learning. We could ask any question that came to mind, any time of day – the important thing was that we dove in and got started now.

For most of the course, we were learning in the field, camera in hand. Jamey and Vanina did an excellent job of giving us all one-on-one attention, and we had the freedom to structure our own experience based on our needs, whether that meant sticking closely to the itinerary or wandering a bit from the pack to explore on our own. 

The way the course encouraged us to get us out in the field using the equipment made the technology far less intimidating. I really appreciated having the chance to try out four different cameras, since my main goal was to gain more shooting experience, and I came away from CIW with greater confidence behind the camera, which I look forward to applying in my professional career. By the end of the week, I had finished two short projects, thanks to all the tools and support provided by Jamey and Vanina. Watch video: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

A woman sitting in sunlight

Cosima Amelang

I also loved how the attention to technical know-how was matched by really compelling subject matter and a focus on the nuances of storytelling. Jamey and Vanina brought us to nature reserves that gave us the chance to immerse ourselves in the issues of the Chesapeake region. We were able to interview experts in the field and track wildlife, tapping into all sorts of stories (some of which I hope to continue following even now that the class is over).

At first I was a bit nervous that I would be the only non-American University student in the group, but I was pleased to see that there was a wide range of undergraduate and graduate students (from departments outside of Film and Media Arts, too) and multiple professionals. The mix of skill levels and backgrounds made for a fulfilling and fun learning experience, very much in the spirit of community, not competition. I’m excited to stay connected with my classmates as we support each other in our future projects and careers!

Cosima Amelang is currently working as an Associate Producer for social media video at National Geographic. Since she's largely a self-taught shooter, she saw CIW as the perfect chance to gain more confidence behind the camera.

Classroom in the Wild is a week-long, non-credit class for both first-time and experienced filmmakers and photographers who have an interest in the environment, natural history and the outdoors.