Underneath piles of graph paper covered with alkene reaction mechanisms, non-homogenous differential equations, and the irreversible steps of glycolysis lies my Nikon D3100, rented from the Digital Media Center for my chosen elective this semester: Introduction to Digital Photography. Don’t get me wrong, I love my graph paper and pencils, along with the derivations and arrow pushing scrawled across it, but my photography class has taught so much more than I ever could have imagined this semester.

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A lesson in abstraction

Having gone to an arts high school where everybody had a major in visual or performing arts means that spending all of my time strictly in academic classes leaves me wanting more. I’ve joined an a cappella group because singing has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, but I still felt like there were other avenues to explore. I can’t dance, act, paint, draw, or play an instrument sufficiently well, so I’ve exhausted quite a few of my options. For the past few years, a little voice in the back of my mind has been whispering “Try out photography!”  To me, there was no better time than now — a time when all of my other classes seemed daunting and I needed a reprieve. Plus, the lack of a core curriculum aside from my major requirements meant that I could choose any elective I could think of. It was a win from all fronts.

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Finding the beauty in small things (potentially a leftover from last year’s Hoptoberfest?)

Past getting my own camera for a semester, I’ve learned how to properly expose my photos, experiment with lighting, and edit them in Lightroom and Photoshop. This weekly class has brought me to Fells Point and the Peabody Library, and even though I might not be the next Brandon Stanton, I’m finding another form of art that I really enjoy.

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Plus I can take cliché photos of campus and say “It’s my homework!”

Another thing that drew me to this class was my intense dislike of having my own photo taken. I figured that if I could take a good picture, people wouldn’t constantly be asking me to be in photos with them anymore. Rather, I would become the person that they asked to take the photo for them. I thought it would be the perfect cover, but I was so wrong.

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Last week, I was plagued with a selfie assignment, which sounds exactly like what it is. We were told to use tripods and take photos of ourselves to edit and critique the following week. I tried to put it off for as long as possible, but not willing to risk taking a hit for not completing the assignment, I begrudgingly took some photos to put on our class website.

Selfie Project-1

Looking at them objectively, I realized a few things. I don’t have the best skin, sometimes my face looks way rounder than I want it to, and my hair is actually wicked cool even though it attacks my face on occasion (by which I mean every day). I also realized that I get to choose how I portray myself to the world. I can edit these photos however I want. It’s entirely up to me what I put out into the world every day. Whether that means sweatpants or a dress, a positive attitude or a negative one, it’s my choice and nobody else’s.

Selfie Project-2

So I enjoy solving math problems. The satisfaction of getting an answer that’s either right or wrong without any gray areas is one of the most gratifying feelings in the world, but what’s college if we don’t learn about ourselves along the way, and why not occasionally do that learning in the classroom?

Selfie Project-6

I know I look angry here, but I’m actually very proud of this photo. Yay for personal growth!