Feel like writing...

by Whitney Bird in

   So hear comes another random post idea.  I am going to start doing "feel like writing days" on the blog.  Sometimes I will answer questions, sometimes I'll talk about my life, and sometimes I might just write something very random.  So here goes...
   I get asked a lot why I became a photographer and how I got into photography, and although the answer is simple- I LOVE photography, there is little more to it than that.  I always tell people that I studied it at MSU which is true, but that is about all the detail I give.  Well there is detail involved in that.  LOTS of detail.
   I first started shooting photography seriously in High School.  I took yearbook my junior year and began shooting with an old slr olympus camera that belonged to my parents.  It is from the 70s and it is sitting on my bookcase in my office as a constant reminder of where I started.  I loved learning about shutter speed and f/stop, and and how they work together.  I loved developing the film, and then developing the photos in the high school darkroom.  It was the perfect introduction class.
  The next year, I took Photo 1, and then an advanced study photo class with my favorite teacher, Mrs. Nowak.  She was the art teacher, but she also taught the yearbook class, as well as the photos class.  She was a true artist, and free spirit.  She got lost in her drawing in much of the same way I got lost in developing photos.  I was always late for Spanish because I had lost track of time in the dark room.  I spent lunch hours, and study halls in that little room, and I fell in love with photography.  When it was time for me to decide what to do after high school, it seemed obvious that I should go to Montana State University, and enroll in their Media and Theatre Art program.  I opted for the photography option, but still had to take some art and film classes.
   My love for photography only grew at this point.  I took a little heat for going into something that others deemed "easy," but let me tell you, it was not easy.  I spent so much time in the labs, and had to be selected from my freshman class based on a final project to be admitted into Sophomore level classes.  I learned to shoot with a 4x5 camera, (one of those old camera where you need a cloak to see in the 4inch by 5 inch view finder) I learned to develop color photographs.  This is done in complete darkness, and you have to manually adjust the amounts of colored light in order to develop a colored photograph.  This taught me so much technically about photography.  I began to understand how to make a green tinted photograph appear true in color.  I began to really understand color theory.  This all came in incredibly handy when it was time to shoot digitally, and learn photoshop.
   I also developed much thicker skin because of my photos classes.  Once a week in all my photo classes we had photo critique.  We brought in whatever assignment was due, and had open discussion with the class and instructor.  This was BRUTAL at times.  People really let you have it if they didn't like your work, and it was hard to hear at times, but it made me a much better photographer.  Faculty too were brutally honest with you because they wanted you to get better.  They wanted to see you reach your potential, and they were as thrilled as you when you brought in something truly great.  It was such a learning experience, and although I always knew I wanted to shoot weddings, and portraits professionally, the fine art side of photography is what kept me coming back.
  I owe my photography career to the instructors I had along the way.  I owe it to my peers who told me when my composition was poor, or when my subject matter was boring.  It has made me carefully critique each of my own images before I deem them worthy.  It has made me carefully adjust for color balance to ensure none of my photos appear green or magenta.  It has given me the courage to put my images out there for all to critique.  I'm sure had I gone into something less creative at MSU I would have gotten through it, but I probably wouldn't look back at it the same way.  Everything I learned in those photo classes, I use today.  There is not a doubt in my mind I made the right decision, and now I get to wake up everyday and do something I truly love and am passionate about.  I am very lucky, but in a lot of ways, I chose this.  I chose this at the age of 17, and I have to give my 17 year old self props for following her heart.

This image below was shot my junior year at MSU in my experimental photography class.
This image was shot with a Holga, (I hand held it and took a photo of myself with nothing more than window light) and then the negative was burned with a lighter and developed in the color lab.
I digitally took this photo of the actual print, but it has not been photoshopped at all except of course for the logo.  I had one of my best critiques with this photo, and it is still a favorite!