F/5.6, 22 second Exposure, Photoshop Inversion - Courtesy of Christina Matthews
If you've never had a photography course, but are interested in learning some basics, Monterey Peninsula College has some awesome courses to get you started. Once you get through those courses, if you like it, there's an A.A. degree program in Photography that you can pursue.
In Photo 1A, you get exposed to 35mm film cameras, but before you get to play in that realm, you get your feet wet with your introduction to the darkroom and images known as Photograms. Put simply, a photogram is a negative created without the use of a camera. You put images that light can pass through over photo sensitive paper, then, turn on the light and let it shine for however long. After that, you get to play with the chemicals - developer, stop, and fix. And for those that don't know what those chemicals do, here's a very brief overview: Developer does exactly what it says - develops the paper, exposing the areas that got hit with light. The stop literally "stops" the developing process. The fix sets the image, removing excess silver from the paper (which is what reacts to the light).
Once you get your images and they are dry, what you're left with is essentially a negative. You can get some really neat images, but what's more fun is seeing what appears when you bring that image into the digital world. If you have access to a scanner, take a photogram image and scan it into your computer. Open it with Photoshop, and then, under the Adjustments menu, invert the image. At this point, you've got what your "image" would look like, had it been taken with a camera. What you'll sometimes find is that there are more details that didn't show up before. In the example above, when the image was a negative, the details in the fan itself were not as apparent as they are as an inverted image. If you look close enough, you can see the minute details of a sumo wrestler to the left of the fan that had begun to emerge during the exposure process.
So, if you're ready to delve into the world of photography and don't know where to start, get over to MPC or a local college and sign up for some photography courses! Stay tuned for more informational reviews of various photography techniques, told from the perspective of an MPC student as well as a emerging professional digital photographer.