Monday, April 30, 2012

Final Nature Portfolio

While spending the whole semester shooting nature photography I really started to appreciate the up close beauty of nature.  This project follows the theme of getting up close with nature, trying to focus on details and unique perspectives that is not always captured or appreciated through the naked eye.  One can certainly truly appreciate the beauty of nature through traditional scenic shots, but I like to get really close to things and show everything that is beautiful, magnificent, unique, etc... on its own.  

This project is supposed to help the viewer focus on one thing per photograph, instead of overwhelming the viewer with a wide angle scenic shot, in these photos I have isolated the subject by getting close to it and allowing it to fill most of the frame.  

I also tried to get unique angles of the subject.  While photographing I was often crouched down in often slightly painful and uncomfortable positions to get the angles I wanted.  I did not want to take the typical downward facing photograph of things, I wanted to mix it up, force the viewer to imagine and think about the context of these photographs.  From immersing myself into a plot of tulips, to laying down next to a stream, to crawling in the mud, I did whatever it took to get interesting angles for all of my photographs. 

The purpose of this project is to get the viewer to realize that nature is not always what is right in front of you.  Nature is not just beautiful HDR scenes of mountains and valleys.  Nature is crawling in the mud, and there is so much unique beauty around us all the time, but you have to search for it.  You have to tilt your head at a 45 degree angle to see the beauty sometimes, you have to get in uncomfortable positions sometimes, but when you take the time you can find that there are so many extraordinary visions that are so often ignored or missed.  

I want people to be inspired to look more closely at nature, and to find new perspective in seemingly normal things.  I want people to be inspired to not ignore the beauty that can be seen when you are not afraid to get a little muddy.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Abandoned Turnpike

On Saturday April 21 my nature photography class took its final trip of the semester.  We went to the Abandoned Turnpike which is near Breezewood, PA.  This trip was different than all of the other trips we have taken.  We got to the turnpike, parked, and proceeded to walk about a mile on the abandoned road to the tunnel.  Along the road was "nature" and that provided photo opportunities.  Once we got to the tunnel we saw that a lot of the outside and the visible inside was covered with some rather profane graffiti.  But it was completely abandoned.  Walking through the tunnel was an experience, it was cold, dark, and kind of wet, and very echoey.  The tunnel itself was a little over a mile long.  Once we got to the other side we saw more graffiti, and some of us went upstairs in the tunnel, which was pretty cool.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mt. Davis

On Saturday April 14 we took a trip to Mt. Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania.  I was kind of uninspired by Mt. Davis however.  The view from the observation tower was beautiful, but other than that everything will still kind of dead and dreary, and I was not able to get really strong photos.  I wanted to get more pictures to use for my final portfolio, so as usual I was trying to get really close to things.  Since most everything was dead at this park I was on the look out for life, something green.  I did find a few living things, and came out with some decent photographs.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Brookfield Zoo

I knew I was not going to be able to attend the Zoo trip with my Nature Photography class, so while I was at home for a weekend I went to the zoo with my cousin and her nephew.  I've photographed at the Pittsburgh Zoo plenty of times, so I was not really excited for this assignment, I figured I would end up getting a lot photos similar to what I already have.  While a few of my photographs were similar to past zoo photos I've taken, I did get some photos that I was impressed with.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Waukegan Beach

For the photograph on your own assignment I decided to get away from the PA State Parks and Pittsburgh Urban Parks and try something different.  So while I was at home in Waukegan, Illinois for a few days I ventured down to the beach, which is just a short drive from my house, to take photos.  I went as the sun was setting, hoping it would give a different look to my photos since all of our trips happen in the morning when the sun is coming up.  The original intention was to try and see the moon rising over the lake since it was a full moon, but unfortunately it was too hazy after the sun was set.  Nevertheless I got good photographs on the beach. 

The Waukegan Beach is full of all these sand dunes, and looking at the beach it looks like a bunch of sand mountains, I have never been to another beach with these sand dunes, so I really like the uniqueness of this beach.

Since I was there at dusk I was able to get these really warm tones in my photos, which I liked because they look so different from all the other photographs I have taken for this class.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stephen Chalmers

On Friday March 30, photographer Stephen Chalmers came to speak at Point Park University about his project titled “Unmarked.”  When I heard about what this series was about I was immediately intrigued.  Chalmers takes photographs where serial killers have dumped their victims.  I thought this was a really interesting project to do, and something I had never heard of, so I was excited to see his images and hear him speak.   In talking about his work Chalmers said that he likes to see how sites of trauma or where trauma happened can heal from that trauma.  He also said with his photos he is trying to dey information to the viewer through the photo, he wants the viewer to think.  
While I really like the idea of his project, I was not terribly impressed with the photographs themselves.  A lot of them look like just snapshots, and they were not really remarkable.  I was really hoping the photographs would be really intense and intriguing to go along with his purpose for shooting them, but to me they just weren’t.  

Here's a link to his work:

Monday, March 26, 2012


Early on St. Patrick's Day my nature photography class took a trip to Ohiopyle State Park, a little over an hour away from downtown Pittsburgh.  The weather for this trip was absolutely gorgeous, our best weather yet I think.
                                                                                                                                                                  The first area of the park we were at was the cascading falls, a pretty magnificent water fall.  Instead of dedicating all my time photographing the waterfall I was getting close up to the water moving along various rocks in the river.
 I really liked photographing the water up close, I think it gives it a unique look.  I did not have a tripod with me to make the water look silky so I took the opposite approach and shot at a pretty high ISO and used a high shutter speed.
 There were a lot of muddy spots at Ohiopyle which actually made for great photographs.  The reflections in the mud were beautiful and the sunlight was just right.  I liked contrasting the dirty mud with the green tuft of grass in the photo below, and I was able to get really close to get the water droplets, the photo below is my favorite from the whole trip.

And of course there was spring in the air, and an area of grass that was filled with these flowers.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Walk in the Woods

Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods is his account of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Bryson chronicles his adventures with his hiking pal interspersed with commentary on various issues regarding the trail, such as the plant and wildlife, the Forest Service, the trail’s creators, etc...  Bryson and his companion soon discover that this endeavor they have embarked on is not so easy, not at all.
I mostly really enjoyed reading this book.  Bryson engages the reader in his account of hiking the trail through witty descriptions of and dialogue with Katz, and intriguing details of the people, scenery, and other things he encounters on the trail.  I enjoyed reading what it was like on the trail, and found myself several times thinking “oh that sounds fun,” but quickly retracting the idea from my head when he would describe the more treacherous, difficult, and less glamourous situations on the trail.  
This book was more then just an account on some guys Appalachian Trail adventure.  Bryson dedicated several pages of each chapter to some social commentary regarding the trail.  What I found most interesting are the things he said about the Forest Service.  
I had never really given much thought to the Forest Service before, and just assumed it was a pretty self-explanatory organization.  
“The Forest Service is truly an extraordinary institution.  A lot of people, seeing that word forest in the title, assume it has something to do with looking after trees.  In fact, no though that was the original plan...In fact, mostly what the Forest Service does is build roads” (Bryson 52-53).  
When I read this I was shocked.  Build roads?  Really?  Is that not the opposite of protecting trees and wildlife?  Tearing down trees and disrupting nature to build roads is what the Forest Service does?  There are more miles of roads in national forests than the amount of miles in America’s interstate system.  “Show [the Forest Service] a stand of trees anywhere and they will regard it thoughtfully for a long while, and say at last ‘You know, we could put a road here’” (Bryson 53).  And why exactly does the Forest Service do this?  To allow loggers to access more areas of loggable land.  So the Forest Service is tearing down trees to allow people to get to more areas where they can tear down trees.  Not only does this get rid of acres upon acres of trees but it disrupts the ecosystem itself.  “This isn’t science.  It’s rape” (Bryson 54).  This was just extremely shocking to me, and the most striking thing of the whole book.  
I also enjoyed Bryson’s commentary on the growing capitalism in small towns.  When him and Katz stopped in some towns, he noticed the disappearance of the small, family-owned and operated stores, and instead found many empty store fronts and a K-mart.  A highly disturbing and growing fad.  I think after spending so much time hiking in the forest, seeing all that consumerism rapidly replacing small mom and pop shops can put a new perspective on big corporations taking over.  Bryson spent much of the book reflecting on the beauty and pureness of his surroundings, and then coming to a town that has been taken over by ugly consumerism and cheesy tourism, like Gatlinburg, can be eye-opening.  
I do have to say that I was disappointed that he did not actually hike the entire trail.  I was rooting for him the whole time, and was really excited to be reading the account of someone who hiked the whole Appalachian Trail, and was kind of taken aback when him and Katz first skipped a section of the trail and skipped to Virginia.  The second half of the book was not as interesting to read as the first half, since he was basically just taking day trips to hike the trail.  This was a little disheartening.  I really wanted to see them hike the whole trail. 
Overall, though, this was a good read.  It made me reflect on forests and state parks I have been able to visit throughout my life (which has been quite a few), and I think after reading this book I am going to have a new perspective on them, and a new refreshed attitude about exploring nature.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Planet Earth

In my Nature Photography class we watched the behind the scenes extras for the documentary series Planet Earth.  I have seen the series before and it has always been a favorite of mine.  I love the nature documentary films, and have always awed in amazement at what scenes they can capture in the wild.  

Watching what actually goes into the making of this series was pretty cool and gave me some perspective.  I never really think about how much time it takes to make these, but there was one guy who sat in a cave for weeks waiting to get the shot he wanted.  They also travel to pretty dangerous locations, but in some cases the more dangerous location the better footage they get.  They also talked about how in order to do this one must be extremely innovative.  Since they are in the wild and in some places where human visitors have not been to in 25 years, things do not also go according to plan, and they have to be creative in how to get the footage they need.  

Manufactured Landscapes

My response to the film Manufactured Landscapes that we watched in my nature photography class.

Manufactured Landscapes is a documentary featuring Edward Burtynsky’s photographic works in industrializing China.  His photographs are stunning and showcase the effects of capitalism and industrialization in China.  The film starts off by showing the inside of a seemingly endless factory.  Hundreds of factory workers are shown looking almost zombie and robotic-like, each performing the same or similar mundane task.  This is capitalism, the mass production of products done by poorly paid laborers.  

The film shows many of Burtynsky’s photographs, all haunting and eerie in their magnificence.  After watching the film I went and looked at Burtynysky’s website to look at more of his photographs.  His photographs of the insides of the factories are some of the most compelling to me.  It is one thing to look at the results of mass production, but is completely different to look at the faces and conditions of what goes into mass production.  When you buy a pair of shoes you probably do not think about where they came from, whose hands made them, what conditions they were made in, how much the person was paid to make those shoes.  That is the commodity fetishism that drives buying and selling in this country, we are often unaware of what went into most of the products that we buy.  

I really like that Burtynsky is using photography to comment on the ever growing trend of capitalism.  I think that showcasing this kind of work can help to make a lot of people more aware of the dangers and effects of over-industrialization.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Schenley Park

The other week we went to Schenley Park to photograph some more.  The day started off as a warm day with the sun peeking through the clouds, and soon turned into a wet, drizzley, dark, and cloudy day.  Despite the grossness of the weather, some areas of the park were still beautiful and I got some good photographs.

We came upon this creek that had no stairs or path down to it, and I of course decided to be adventurous and climb down to the stream, leaving Amy and Aldona at the top looking at me like I was insane.  Insane as I may be, I got some really good photos of leaves in the stream down there.

After that we came to this swampy area with dead leaves and gross looking water and little green plants coming up from the ground.  The juxtaposition between the green and the dead leaves and muddy water was interesting to photograph. I also enjoyed photographing the gross water, the colors in it and the swirls look good in the photographs.