First Person – Eurofoto a winning experience

Donna Maranto

(Editor’s note: This first-person story is the first of three parts covering the City College photography department’s 2007 Eurofoto tour.)

Most photography students here at City College know about Dave “Ike” Eichinger’s Eurofoto class held during the summer months. He developed the curriculum in order to give students the opportunity to have a growing experience while widening their portfolios and touring places they have not yet visited.

For those unfamiliar with Eurofoto, it is a seven-unit course in which students travel in Europe to experience the historical relevance, worthy landscape and sites of interest, and take photographs with which they can expand their portfolios.

Upon return, the students have five weeks to work in the darkroom or at the computer printing, filing and deciding which photographs are “winners” (I personally came back with more than 3,000, having taken four cameras). The value to any photographer’s portfolio soon becomes obvious.

On May 17, I eagerly mailed the final payment to Leonardo World LLC for the San Diego City College Eurofoto 2007 Study Abroad Program. This brought the total expense to $4,400. It did not seem overpriced considering what was included: a stay every night at a reputable B&B, all breakfasts, travel insurance, and most all of the transportation.

During the next two weeks, I probably learned more about the United Kingdom than any student needing the education for credits or classes – Stonehenge, a mysterious circle of hewn rocks built and rebuilt centuries ago; Loch Ness, nestled deep in the wilds of Scotland; Shakespeare’s birth place; the ruins at Bath; and more. So much more.

Then, there came the e-mail from Leonardo World, a mere week and a half before the departure date. The tour had been cancelled. We would be receiving our refund checks shortly. No explanations, no apologies, just a quick note sent in that quiet and cruel world of electronic noiselessness. I suddenly turned 5 years old and hurriedly cried for mama: ouch!

Soon, another e-mail came. It was Ike, our leader, telling us not to worry, and scheduling a meeting for all of us to discuss the tragedy. In the course of a week and a half, during which time Ike worked incessantly around the clock, almost never leaving his computer, we had ourselves our tour – with upgrades in itinerary and a bonus of $500 savings. The rest, as they say, is history. At the beginning of the week of our original date to leave, we were a go.

Although meeting with these few setbacks, the experience certainly fulfilled all expectations. This year’s choice was the United Kingdom. Ireland through Scotland then on to England, including all of the main attractions – Stonehenge, Loch Ness, Lakeside, Edinburgh, Stratford upon the Avon; and including the Cliffs of Moher, a place so thrilling I am still wondering if it really was just a magical tour of our imagination; and then Edinburgh, Bath, Lake District and England.

But there really was much more than the excitement of actually photographing the “stars” of the tour. The real strength of it was the commitment we all had to making it a meaningful experience in our lives.

The first real chance we had to “bond” came as we arrived in New York, the first stop-over in the beginning leg of our journey. We had two hours to wait, eat, talk and compare our equipment and to start making plans. It was there we decided on who we would room with, and we kept these arrangements during the entire trip.

Three flights and several airports later, we arrived in Shannon, Ireland, and much to the delight of our luggage weary arms, the van was waiting to take us to Galway. And, as it was common to most of the tours, the driver spoke of the history of the land as we passed it, and gave us tips on the best spots to see and photograph.

Although we all ran for the door as soon as our luggage was deposited in our rooms, the most “oohs” and “aahs” came the next morning as we all sat for our first bed-and-breakfast meal. With all the usual continental compliments waiting for us as we ambled to the breakfast table, the main course arriving after we all were seated, we had many choices. Most settled on what was called “the full English breakfast.” And when they say full, they mean full. I was happy to see at this point that food was not going to be a problem, but rather a great pleasure.

I could say much about the timeless beauty of Ireland, a land seemingly untouched by the progress of our age. My respect for the Irish grew as I viewed the green landscapes and the countless ruins protected and cared for by its people.

There are many villages where Gaelic is still taught, and many road signs carried their language still. It seemed we had walked back into another time as we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher – the sun was beginning to set and painted a golden path of the lingering light directly to the sea. The cliffs themselves are a sculpture of time, brashly surviving against the tides and winds.

One of our companion travelers, Susan K. Smith, was on her second Eurofoto tour with City College.

“Lake District was very exciting for me,” she recalled. “Being able to capture the countryside images, including the swans, thatched roofs and waterways which are so very beautiful gave me many exciting additions for my portfolio. It seemed we had a little more time during that part of our tour to concentrate on actual photography.”

Susan is a professional photographer, and describes her work as “Faux”-tography. After she captures an image, she spends hours at the computer turning it into an artful masterpiece. Her work can be seen at Spanish Village in Balboa Park.

For me, it was probably Ambleside that drew my most rapt attention, a place so very charming, near to Windermere. There I spent most of my time hiking around a waterfall and stream which provided a beauty of nature I had hoped to see and photograph often.

(Donna Maranto is a frequent contributor to City Times)

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First Person – Eurofoto a winning experience