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.