Reflections and Best Photo

When I really want to capture a moment, I use my 35 mm film camera. This makes me a stingy photographer. The expense of a single photo produced by that camera strongly influences what moments I consider worth photographing. With my iPhone in my hands, I liberally snap photos often without even thinking. Just glance through my camera roll, the most recent photo is of my friend’s foot resting on my knee. The photo is grainy, in low light and difficult to discern. I would never have taken that shot with my 35 mm. The first tip in “Becoming a Better Photographer” ( in the ds106 handbook is to get picker and is the guideline I feel most compelled to follow. I will be shooting probably all of my content for this course with my iPhone and rather than sifting through dozens of takes, I hope to be able to visualize my ideal final product before I even take a photo.

Additionally, I want to focus on perspective. I have a tendency to approach everything with the same point of view, it’s difficult for me to see things in a new way after my first glance. It’s not that I feel reluctant to take on a new view, it’s that my initial understanding of a scene is steadfast, and I often miss out on the beautiful aspects that are hidden there. Finally, I am often criticized for me tendency to overuse filters on my photos posted to Instagram. I love for my pictures to have a slight blue tint, but I hope to gain practice in achieving the aesthetic I desire without having to edit the images I capture.

The early topics of the “What is Visual Literacy” video ( are not news to me, but I had not fully considered the implications of our increasingly image-centered culture. I have assumed; without proper statistical analysis, that our interactions with images has increased greatly, just study meme culture and it becomes quite obvious. That we are expanding in every form of media other than reading is impressive, though concerning. The rapid growth of internet-based communication and interactions is unlike anything we’ve seen before, we need not speak the same language in order to relate to the ways in which we’ve begun to describe our worlds visually. The animated GIF has become a hallmark of visual literacy. On twitter, thousands of GIFs are in circulation and are widely used and recognized by people all over the world. These are typically short clips of a person’s facial expression changing in response to some unknown occurrence behind the camera. As an online community, we have used these images again and again in order to represent our own reaction to events specific to our own lives. These GIF reactions are so incredibly relatable, it’s tempting to think that there is a complex process behind what makes them so universal that they overcome language barriers. However, these genius little clips are simple extensions of what the vision centers in our brains have been evolutionarily wired to compute. Just like we can recognize that a person is happy when they smile or sad when they pout, we can associate a common human emotion in a GIF reaction and give it context.

As discussed in this video, time is incredibly important in both the creation and interpretation of the visual world. I will need to slow down and allow myself to take in what I see, to allow events to unfold and simply observe rather than conduct the premature analysis that is my tendency.

Having read “The Story Behind…Migrant Mother,” ( I was most struck by the Dorthea Lange’s quote: “’Isn’t this just more of the same?’” Dorthea Lange’s questioning of the validity of continuing her work, capturing the same images of people suffering through the depression, is eye-opening. She almost did not capture her most iconic photograph. We should not brashly attempt to record as much as we possibly can, rather we should take our time to notice and appreciate a moment as it unfolds. Lange could not have recognized that her photo would become what it became. She must have empathized so deeply with the family in that moment so as to realize that despite the hundreds of photographs she had taken of the people in the pea camps, each captured image relayed a unique sorrow. Each image, lacking the color and clarity of modern photography, still crisply delineates the harrowing pain these people suffered.

Putting the tips to the test-

The photo above is one I took while kayaking. This photo is a success for me in that I was able to manipulate the scene around me to achieve the desired perspective. Littered along the surface of most of the lake were boats and jet skis, but I was able to position myself and the camera in a manner that excluded these extra elements. In doing this, the photo gives the impression of a lone kayaker, miles from anyone else. I am pleased with how I was able to slow and take a new perspective, as well as dominate the color scheme with a completely natural and unedited blue tint, however I don’t think this is my best photo of the week. The picture lacks depth and angles, the mountains appear unimpressive and almost two dimensional.

This next picture is an image of my roommate and best friend Ian as he sips his morning coffee, I would consider it my best photo of the week. Ian is my biggest critic when it comes to the way that I take and edit photos, he tends to think that an unedited photo is far superior to one with a filter, although I think he must be a little biased since he has the high quality camera of the iPhone 6s. I was inspired to take this picture almost three minutes before I actually pressed down on the shutter button. I first experimented with placing focus on Ian in the background and then shifting that focus to the foreground. Placing focus on the pillow that was on my lap at the time makes for a more compelling photo. The texture of the pillow can be seen in vivid detail, it becomes the subject of the image, slightly distracting from the only animate being in the frame.

There is an implied directionality from the angles found in the pillow that point in Ian’s general direction. The slight indirectness is further complimented by the blurring effect of the light pouring in from the window display behind Ian, nothing about his presence in the photo is particularly clear. His stance appears unnatural although he did in fact strike and hold that pose for several minutes without prompt. The angle at which this photo was taken was my attempt to assume a different perspective in the moment. The natural light was enhanced by my refocusing of the camera on the foreground rather than the background, which negated my incessant need for a filter. The most important achievement in taking this photo was that I allowed the moment to unfold gradually before deciding to take my shot, I allowed the image to evolve on its own while I simply manipulated the view to achieve the softness of the image.

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