I was lucky enough to grow up in Lake George, NY, a small town in the Adirondacks, and one of the most beautiful places in the country. The surrounding scenery helped me develop an eye for the beauty in nature all around me, from the mountains and lakes with their roles in a vast landscape, down to the details of a crisp, colorful leaf as it falls in autumn. My other interests and talents generally lay in the sciences, specifically biology and physics. What may at first seem like opposing fields, finding ways to align science and art has always been fun and fascinating for me. Photography is a perfect example of this.
Photography is more than just “pretty pictures”, even though that is how the majority of people view it. Understanding photography requires and understanding the science behind it: how slight changes in shutter speed, aperture, and ISO will affect the resulting image. Why does widening the aperture shorten the amount of time needed for a perfect exposure? Why would anyone want to capture a long-exposure image – wouldn’t it just be blurry? On an even deeper level, you can dive into the properties of light and their effects on the final image. How does the lens refract the light? Why do full frame cameras often have a vignette effect? What exactly does a polarizing filter do? These questions and concepts are part of what makes photography so interesting to me, but enough of that.
My first exposure (ha) to photography was in junior high, where I took my first photography class. The school lent us cameras while picking up the tab for paper, film, and developing chemicals. Like learning to drive standard before automatic, I appreciate the fact that my early photography training was will film rather than digital (unfortunately, I don’t think that will be the case for students for much longer). Using film forces you to manipulate light and understand the development and exposure process, rather than relying on Photoshop to touch up the things you miss while shooting or in the dark room. “Burning” and “dodging” are words that actually make sense to me in regard to their original purpose, rather than simply thinking of them as post-processing tools. Hands-on experience should never be undervalued. That class was arguably my favorite at LGHS.
I later attended Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, where I studied molecular biology and philosophy (I mention philosophy as it has helped me think about all things – science and art – from different perspectives and helped me grow as a photographer). Again, I was surrounded by beauty everywhere (and I’m not just talking about the coeds). Colgate was awarded the #1 Most-Beautiful Campus ranking in the Princeton Review multiple times in recent years, including this past year. It was during the summer before senior year, when I was accepted into an off-campus study semester in DC, that I got my first dSLR: the Canon Rebel T2i. The camera was a gift to myself and was originally meant to document my time in DC. I just wish I had gotten a camera sooner so I could have taken more photos on campus.
After graduating in 2011, I moved to DC and worked as a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health for two years. After that, I began my current job as a data analyst and project developer at the US Food and Drug Administration. In recent years, my photography skills have developed (another one!) significantly as well. I’ve expanded my techniques, graduated from the T2i to the 7D and 5D mark III, and began shooting paid gigs. In recent months, I’ve filed for a Maryland LLC and began developing a website for my work. I’ve done family portraits, head shots, real estate shots, food and drink photography, and even dabbled in stock-specific shooting.
Though I am a scientist by profession and plan on continuing that route with graduate school in the near future (go Terps?), photography will never stop being a passion of mine. I continue with science as I feel it is my more specialized skill, and allows me to help people in ways I can’t with photography. That being said, I still look forward to growing the photography business, meeting new people, sharpening (I’ve got to stop with these) my skills, trying new techniques, and capturing the unique and interesting personality of the DC metro area in my future shots.