Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A trip to Chicago???

One of the fun things about developing a new program is planning the activities and experiences that will make a student successful in their career. At Lambton College, we are determined that Digital Photography students don’t have memories of their education being cooped up in dreary classrooms. Part of this will be handled with our hybrid teaching model, where theory classes will be online and lab classes will be on campus. But another big goal of the program is to get students out of school altogether, shooting images in the community, at events, and even on field trips.

Just for fun we planned out a second-year trip to Chicago, and how exactly this would work. The trip won’t be mandatory, but when you see the low prices we have come up with, we expect very few students will opt for the alternative assignments that will be allowed.

Sarnia is located close to Port Huron Michigan, and students would be required to get to the Amtrak train station there on their own. The train leaves at midnight, and we would leave on a Wednesday night/Thursday morning. The train has several cars, so students who want to nap, could do so in one of the main cars, while those who want to party could hang out in the snack car. The trip takes about seven hours, so it should be about 1 p.m. when we roll into Chicago.

In Chicago there are many sights to see, including the El (elevated railway), fantastic architecture, and great museums and cultural attractions. We would schlep off on foot from the Amtrak station through downtown to the Chicago Youth Hostel, taking pictures as we go. We could drop our bags at the hostel, and then have a free evening in Chicago. Taking pictures until dark, and then you will be on your own ... this hostel does not have a curfew. Just get back in time to get a bit of sleep before the Friday activities.

Those who don’t party too hard can get up early to take advantage of the great early light to take photos of the area. The famous Buckingham Fountain (illustrated above) is one attraction within walking distance, as are the El, the Art Institute, Lake Michigan, and other sights.

We will have some organized activities later in the morning, including visit to the Field Museum, where hopefully we will have permission to photograph the exhibits, including “Sue” the recently uncovered Tyrannosaurus Rex on display there. Another activity here might be a visit with the staff photographer at the museum, to learn about the challenges of this type of photographic career.

Another group activity will be a trip to the Willis Tower (you might know of it under the old name of Sears Tower). The Skydeck, a quarter mile up, will give us great shots of the city and its famous skyline (pray for clear skies). The Shedd Aquarium is just a short bus ride away (bus passes will be included) and photography of the aquatic life is allowed (no flash).

The Saturday morning tour will involve the Art Institute. This famed art gallery has a strong collection of photography, as well as such painted classics as American Gothic, shown here. We will have to be back at the train station by 4 p.m. (check out is 11 at the hostel, for those who slept in) so there will be some more free time available for shooting the city.

The train ride back takes 7 hours again, and gets us into Port Huron at midnight. Then you have all day Sunday to rest up for another week of photography at school starting on Monday.

So what would all this cost? The train travel is dirt cheap, currently $28 each way. The youth hostel is also affordable, at $59 each. (That’s for two nights, not each night.) You will be sleeping in a dorm of 8 or 10 though. A three day bus pass is $12, and figure another $50 for admissions into the attractions (hopefully less, when we get group rates). You will want another $75 for your food and snacks over the three days (or more than double that if you want to experience Chicago fine dining or a stop at the clubs.)

All totalled, the low end cost of the trip would be $250 per person for three days of fun and photography. Now all we have to do is work out a trip to New York so that first year students can join in the fun.

(This field trip is all currently conjecture. There is no guarantee that such a trip will be a part of the Lambton College experience. However, the developers of the Digital Photography program are determined to build this type of experience into the program.)

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