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A New Medium

My filters finally came!

I'd never really done much with photography until a few years ago, and even then, I'm not sure that mobile devices count. Most phones have decent enough cameras these days, but having an actual DLSR to play with is very exciting, especially since I haven't had access to one since college.

Photography used to annoy me, because it felt like it took very little effort and wasn't "real" art because it didn't require the same skill sets as traditional studio classes. To me, it also felt more like a science, simply due to technical processes, and didn't really deserve to be completely lumped in with the creative humanities. Sure, photography allowed someone to freeze time and share it, which was neat, but it still felt more like documentation rather than creation, with photographers being posers rather than actual artists. Now I feel that's the wrong way to think about cameras. Photography is definitely an art form, because while they can be used to  document the world or preserve a moment, photography is rarely used to simply show what is. Instead, it takes "what is", reframes it, and makes the resulting image into whatever the photographer wants you to see. If you've ever looked at the clouds as a child and had a friend who could always imagine and see the same pictures as you did in them, then you know what this feels like.

It also isn't true that photography is entirely predictable or that it's something that doesn't require real skill. Composition is still important and you have to experiment with various settings and shutter speeds to get what you want. Recently, I've been enjoying playing with light and long exposure shots, especially on foggy nights. Traffic lights are especially pretty, and the resulting images remind me of watercolors, but I can never predict how they'll turn out. I'm sure these filters will add more layers of fun, and I'm excited to see what each of them will do. I have some starburst lenses, assorted color gradients, and several fliters with specialty shaped glass, as well as one that's supposed to make it easier to capture the stars. I can't wait to play with them, and there are several locations I plan to visit with my camera.

The Rocky Mountain regions are far prettier than anything I've seen in the Midwest, but I am nonetheless undeniably drawn to something I've mentally dubbed "Midwest decay" and I already have several projects in mind. These locations range anywhere from tumbled-down structures in little towns I used to pass whenever I drove to Nebraska to cemeteries, abandoned mansions, and the crumbling silos near the lake with trees growing out the center of them. I also love firefly season, mornings when there's an eerie mist covering the ground, spiderwebs and and sunsets after cloud bursts. I also have yet to get a good image of a cardinal. If a friend will help, I still have several sparklers in the closet that would be perfect for light-painting, which I haven't tried yet.

Getting the image is only the first half the battle. There's also the editing process itself, which is enjoyable, but adjusting images so that they print properly can be a giant pain and is incredibly unpredictable. I miss having access to UW's photo lab, especially Hildegard, the massive printer that could produce images larger than movie posters, but it's okay- I prefer digital preservation and don't typically print anything unless it's something or someone important to me personally.

I'm not sure when I'll have enough time to get all the pictures I want, and it's not very practical to lug around a bag full of DLSR accessories, but I'm very excited to play with my new toys and can't wait to see what I can capture.

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange


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