Friday, June 12, 2015

Assignment that I am most proud of

"Capitol Hill"

"Spring Reflections- NYC"

Looking back through the hundreds of photos I took for this class as well as the assignments, I am most proud of my hobbies and interests assignment. I have always loved to photograph things with meaning to me because I am inspired by them and can generally find creative ways to express such meaning. I especially love to photograph my travels because seeing and exploring new places and documenting it is something that I am passionate about. Because of this, the hobbies and interests assignment really interested me as a photographer, especially because I was in New York City and Washington, DC at the time of the assignment. During all assignments but especially in this one, I tried to photograph things exactly as saw them. I tried to capture what I saw as beautiful about the scenes and show their story in a creative way that would not only document where I was, but also interest viewers. I took a lot of shots in this assignment that related the blooms of spring to an urban setting, which both of these photographs show. I had fun finding nature and beauty within the so-called "concrete jungle" and liked the contrast between the two opposites. The hobbies and interests assignment taught me to think more deeply when making images and that I should try to make connections and create relations within the photo.

Overall, I appreciated the opportunity to express myself fully and try new things with this assignment. It really reminded me why it is that I love to photograph and the relationships that I can create by making images. I brought together all of the technical skills I've learned in order to effectively portray the images just how I wanted to.

Most Memorable Experiences

I know it seems ever so cliche to say that I've learned so much about the skills it takes to photograph and that I have been a better photographer over the course of this semester class. However, I believe that both of these statements are absolutely true. One of my favorite things about this Photo 1 class has been the technical as well as visual skills that I have picked up on. From defining and learning photographic terms like aperture and shutter speed, I have been able to make my camera more a part of me and less of a tool, if that makes any sense. As I have improved my technical skills, I have been able to make more images that look like the original ideas in my head. I now have much more control on the lighting of the photographs, which is huge. As someone who has been photographing for as long as I can remember, I have always recognized the importance of lighting but the work in this class has further emphasized that point. I truly understand that it is the central point of photography and learning how to control it is what makes the very best of images.

Another aspect of photography that I think of when I think of memorable Photo 1 experiences is how one wants their subjects to be portrayed. When I see something I want to photograph, I now try to think about what it is about that specific subject that draws my attention, and I then try to find a creative way to express that to the viewer. I now find myself spending more time setting up my shots, whether it be physically moving things around or just positioning myself in the right way. I have really learned to embrace the idea of "making" a picture instead of "taking" one, and think that I am a better photographer and creative thinker because of it. By my peers and I all having the same photo assignments, I have seen how differently each one of us has taken it and I've noticed so many different ways to portray rather similar subjects. It's important to not just take one photograph of a subject but to take many to try to figure out the best way to express the point that you're trying to get across with the photo.

Perhaps the thing that has been the newest for me during this course is reflecting on my work. In Photo 1, I have gotten the opportunity to keep a Photo blog, Ning, Flickr, and Vimeo. Through all of these programs, I have uploaded my work and generally included some sort of description. However, such descriptions do not just simply list what is in the photo and where it was taken. The descriptions describe things like what I saw in my area while taking the specific photo, what I was smelling, what I was hearing etc. I think that reflecting on my work has given it more meaning both to myself as well as my viewers. It can also be very effective because it may help the viewer to see the image in the way that I meant for them to, meaning that it could help the photo tell its story. I have always loved to write, so combining my two favorite ways to express myself (photography and writing) has been something both enjoyable and memorable for me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Photos with Quotes

I think that this assignment certainly taught me a significant amount about how photos and words can be paired together for a powerful effect. Of course, photos alone and words alone can both be strong statements, but when they work together, they can truly convey a prominent message to the viewer. In my background photos for this assignment, I tried my best to find two photos that had a deeper meaning. One is the face of my younger brother, Hayden, and the other is a photograph of one of the war memorials in Washington, D.C. These images both tell very different and in my opinion, meaningful stories. Through this assignment, I learned how to find relevant quotes to describe what the photos mean to me. For my brother, I admire his curious nature and how it has shaped him as a person. For the war memorial, I am always so moved by my visits to them and it reminds me how lucky I am to live in such a country where people have done and are currently doing so much to protect our freedom. I am reminded by their risk for the greater gain of others, and such a thought inspires me. 

The other major thing that I learned while completing this assignment is a bit more about graphic design. I have not done a ton of work with graphic design in the past, and have never really tried to incorporate words into my images to make a new form of an art piece. From the second I started formatting in PhotoShop, it became clear to me that adding quotes to my photos was not about just adding a textbook, typing in what I wanted to say, and then being done. I had to think about where to place the words so that they looked like a part of the image. I had to think about not taking away from the picture while still making the quote an important and central point. I also had to consider font and how to relate the font to the overall tone of the piece. Such considerations were new artistic challenges that I had never been faced with before. However, I think that I made my best stab at the graphic design process in these two works and I hope to play around more with the art form in the future.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pinhole Camera

Pinhole Camera: A pinhole camera is a camera with no lens and a very small aperture (a pinhole.) It is usually a box that doesn't allow any light inside except for through the pinhole when it is opened. The light from the scene goes through the pinhole, bringing a reflected image on the opposite side of the box. 

While creating pinhole images, I learned more about how aperture affects photography, how to photograph with a simple form of a camera, and how to use effectively use a dark room to develop photographs. As far as aperture goes, aperture is defined as the hole in the camera through which light can travel. If the aperture is wide, uncollimated rays are allowed into the camera which focuses sharply on rays with a certain focal length. In comparison, if the aperture is more narrow, highly collimated rays are allowed in, causing sharp focus on the plane of the image. The aperture of the pinhole camera was very narrow, causing only certain things in the image to be focused. My DLSR camera has the option to enable me to photograph with a much wider aperture to let me control how much I want focused in the image. This leads in to the experience of photographing with a simple camera. Unlike my normal camera, the pinhole camera gave me one aperture, one lighting option, and the chance to take just one photo at a certain time. The only thing I had control over was how long the exposure was. I had to develop the photograph in the darkroom before seeing how the exposure worked out so it was certainly a trial-and-error type of process. I changed the number of seconds I made the exposure by seeing how light or dark my previously developed images came out. Using the darkroom was another skill that I learned while doing this project as I'd never had the opportunity to do so before. I learned how to use the developer, stop bath, and fixer to develop my images as well as the times that the photo had to be soaked in each of the chemicals. I also learned how important it is for the darkroom to remain dark so that no outside light leaked onto the photographs. The darkroom was a really new and different experience that deepened my knowledge of photography. 

I absolutely loved doing this project. It gave me the opportunity to make photos in a totally different way and forced me to be more creative than I normally am with my photography, which I see as a very positive thing. I had to be very precise while setting up the photographs because the camera had to be totally still as did the subject or else the image would come out blurry. As mentioned previously, I also learned how to use a darkroom which has been something I've wanted to do since I became interested in photography years ago. Doing the trial and error process and then developing and drying the images was so interesting to me, as was the way such clear photos can be created using a paint can and some photo paper. Overall, I hope to get the opportunity to work with pinhole cameras again and I hope to spend more time in the darkroom since this was such a positive experience.

Creative Portraits/Self-Portraits

While studying portraiture, one of the most important things I've learned is to try to capture who the person is through the photographs. There are so many photos out there of people forcing smiles, trying to look as good as possible for things like head shots. While that is no doubt a very legitimate and key form of portraiture, I think that what makes portrait images great is when they show a more natural side of the subject through photographing the subject's natural expressions and reactions. 
These four images are of my younger brother, Hayden. When I think of him, I think of someone who is motivated, happy, energetic, active, curious, and mature enough to be serious when it is necessary. While making these portraits,  I tried to have a conversation with him or say something to him so that I could photograph his natural reaction. The first photo is my favorite example of this because it captures Hayden in the moment that I always picture him in myself. The other images do different things, showing his curious side, active side and then more serious side. None of these four images show Hayden forcing a smile and all of them show him doing something he likes and is comfortable with so that he was comfortable being photographed. 
I also tried to incorporate my research on portraiture styles into all of the images I took, but especially these four. Subject expression, as I've mentioned previously, was one I really tried to focus on. The whole idea of an up-close-and-personal perspective where the viewer feels as though he or she is talking to the subject is something I find very cool and very effective. I also tried to play with lighting a bit, especially in the fourth photo. The background is very light but also blurred to give focus to the subject. His face is lit from the sides, which is visible on both of his cheeks. It's a very natural lighting cast but something that I had to play with and figure out while in the process of making the image.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Who Am I

I am Hannah Van Alstine. Who am I? I'm someone with a lot of interests. From engaging in sports, to photography, to writing, to baking, to hiking, to traveling, to spending time with friends and family, the things I like to are far and wide. I am someone who enjoys pushing herself out of her comfort zone to pursue such interests. My favorite sports are ski racing and crew. I love ski racing because it gives me an adrenaline rush like nothing else and it gives me a total outlet where I can take healthy risks and have a really good time doing so. Crew is something that I began fairly recently, and I view it as something out of the ordinary. It pushes me to the max both physically and mentally, which I love because I love to challenge myself and see just how far I can go. I also push myself out of my comfort zone in terms of travel. I flew to Europe last summer by myself to visit family and gained so much independence from the experience. Next semester, I am headed to the Island School in the Bahamas, where I will focus on challenging myself at all levels. From training for a half marathon, to rigorous, demanding field work, to a 48-hour solo expedition at the end, I will be pushed severely out of my comfort zone. However, I'm not scared of it at all. I have a passion for discovering and learning new things and thrive when I am being challenged. I also love to be around people that have similar outlooks. I am inspired by those who have the courage to go out on a limb and try something that others may see as crazy. I think that those with the ability to do this are living up to all that they can be. One of my favorite quotes goes as follows: "A ship in a harbor is safe. But that's not what ships are built for." I hope to keep this attitude for the rest of my life because it's really important to me to be all that I can be, not just for myself, but for everyone around me as well.