Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Archive for October, 2009

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by Ben on October 31, 2009

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Those of you that know me here at Tech have probably noticed that I haven’t been around much the last week or so, or that when I have, I’ve been pretty stressed out.  I had a huge project for my Computing Systems class which I probably spent about 30 hours between Tuesday night and Friday night working on.  I also had a big test in my Real Analysis course Wednesday night.  That being said, it’s been a hectic week, and I haven’t had much time for anything fun, with the notable exception of teaching my first Salsa class Monday night.  Sometimes, I wonder exactly why I put so much pressure on myself to do so much, and I wonder if it’s really worth it or not.

But luckily all of that is behind me now, and things are starting to look up again, at least until we get our next project.  We had our annual Main Campbell Halloween party tonight which was a lot of fun, and luckily I was able to spend all afternoon working on a costume rather than on that project.  I’m also looking forward to a big salsa workshop tomorrow afternoon.

So, the title of the post has two meanings, the first from the way I feel after making it through the last week, the second from the effect of the shot itself.  It wasn’t actually taken through a tunnel, instead just through a poorly lit archway.  I really like the effect from the stone archway, a jagged frame for a nice scene.  It also turned out nicely that there wasn’t any light falling on this side of the arch as it gives it a really nice solid feel.  The scene through the arch also turned out really well.  The colors are nice and vibrant, and the sky isn’t completely blown out like I thought it might be when I took the shot.

Hopefully things will be getting back to normal during the next week or so, and I’ll be able to get back to doing a lot of the things I enjoy, hopefully both running and dancing again, not to mention taking some new pictures.

-Ben

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Filler

Posted by Ben on October 29, 2009

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I haven’t gotten as much sleep as I’m used to the past few days, and at this point am not sure if I can write coherently for more than a few sentences.  This is another picture from the Hahn Horticulture Gardens on campus that I took last week.  Turned out pretty cool.  I’m off to class and then back to the systems lab to work on this CS project…

-Ben

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Learning to See

Posted by Ben on October 27, 2009

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The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. ~Dorthea Lange

I think a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it.  ~Author Unknown

Someone pointed me to a site with a lot of good quotes about photography the other day.  There were definitely a lot of common themes running through all of the quotes, and this is one I’ve talked about a little here before.  These quotes work on a couple of levels for me.  On the surface, getting into photography has made me much more observant about the world around me.  I catch myself noticing things now that I never would have paid attention to a couple of months ago.  For example, the way certain colors blend together or the reflection on a still body of water.  But I think my eyes have opened on a deeper level as well.  I find that I get much more out of what’s around me.  I have a much deeper appreciation and sense of wonder at so many aspects of the natural world that were completely inconsequential to me before.  I rarely go out to take pictures with the intention of getting a certain shot, more often I simply wander around until I see something that captivates me.  I then try, sometimes successfully, to capture not only the scene that inspires me but the feelings and emotions that it triggers within me.  Take the shot above.  Certainly not a great shot, lens flare and a little crooked.  But sitting there under that tree with the sunlight filtering through the leaves, listening to the sounds of the creek falling over the rocks underneath the bridge filled me with a sense of peace despite the fairly major road only about five feet behind me.

Anyway, I should really get back to work now…

-Ben

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The Colors of Fall

Posted by Ben on October 25, 2009

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Autumn in Blacksburg can be incredibly stunning.  When the weather cooperates and the temperatures climb into the 60’s it’s hard to keep me locked up indoors all day.  I spent most of the morning catching up on all the sleep I’ve missed this past week, and preparing for next week…After a couple of hours in the library churning out another essay for Professionalism and getting some proofs done for Discrete Math, I came back to the dorm and decided to go out and take some pictures of the beautiful fall colors.  This shot is from the other side of the duck pond, or at least the side I don’t usually take pictures from.  When I came back in from shooting and transferred the pictures from my camera, this one, more than any of the others took my breath away.  So many vivid colors just jumped off of the screen at me.

Like I said above, the colors in this shot were just amazing.  Unfortunately, the sky is washed out in the top right corner and there’s a little bit of lens flare along the right edge.  But those are my only real complaints about the way this turned out.  I maybe should have moved forward just a little to get that branch in the top left out of the picture.  I’d crop it, but then I’d lose most of the blue in the sky :|.  The water of the pond was fairly still for the amount of wind that was blowing this afternoon, but it lets you see pretty clear reflections of the trees around the shore.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for blogging this week, but I’ll try to post a picture or two, even if there’s not much of a post to go with it.

-Ben

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Focal Activities

Posted by Ben on October 23, 2009

I went walking with a friend this afternoon up to the Hahn Horticulture Gardens on campus to take some pictures as the sun went down.  I found this pretty specimen floating in the middle of a small little pond at the back of the gardens.  I had to underexpose the shot quite a deal to get the colors to turn out this nicely, but I’m very please with the results.  I got quite a few other good pictures this evening that will probably make their way onto the site in the near future.

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We recently read an article in my Professionalism in Computing course about the “Philosophy of Human-Computer Interaction” (http://www.bloomington.in.us/~dstokes/hci/essay.html).  The author of the essay discusses several different philosophical interpretations of modern technology in the first section, including one by Albert Borgmann.  Borgmann writes that “Postmodern technology uses the hyper-reality of simulations to get rid of the limitations imposed by reality.”  The author of the essay then paraphrases Borgmann and states that the “antidote for losing our personality to the shallowness and superficiality of hyper-reality is to return to focal activities … practices which center our attention on the richness of life.”  The essay goes on to discuss key elements in the design of interfaces between humans and computers.

However, more than any of the practical suggestions made later in the essay, this section on the nature of so-called “focal activities” stuck with me after reading it.  As a Computer Science major and someone who has grown up with computers around, I spend a great deal of time using and interacting with computers during any given day.  This passage made me kind of step back and think about just how much time I spend in the “hyper-reality of simulations” and what, if any focal activities I have.

What activities do I do that help me to focus on the richness of life?  The first thought that came to mind was dancing.  It’s something I look forward to (three days a week now), and an aspect of my life that hyper-reality doesn’t seem to intrude upon.  I guess I do try to encourage others to join me through more modern means of communication, but the focus is on getting them to come and share the experience rather than on the technology with which I send an invitation.  Maybe one of the things that draws me to it is this disconnection from the virtual world and the constant interaction with other people (in person as opposed to email or instant messaging).

Thinking about it a little more, I realized that photography has become one of those focal activities for me. I feel like my interest in photography has always (for the past two years) been a product of my desire to both better appreciate the world around me and to share some of that wonder with other people.  Over the past two years, I have definitely developed a much more acute sense of my surroundings.  Certain things like natural symmetry, or the way the light at sunset filters down through the leaves of a tree, things that I used to not even notice, now jump out at me and appear almost everywhere that I look.  Looking back, I realize that I have been seen many cool places, but haven’t truly experienced many of them, which only makes me want to go back again (especially some of the national parks out west).

I know that when I recently purchased my new camera, I did put a pretty heavy emphasis on its technological capabilities.  However, rather than just wanting the latest shiny toy, instead my focus was on getting a tool that would be able to help me to capture and share my experiences, one that offered enough in the way of functionality to give me control over a lot of the aspects of shooting.  I also know that I am using the hyper-reality of the online, virtual world to share my pictures, but I’ve tried to keep the focus here on the pictures.  You won’t find any flashy graphics or animations, simply pictures and text, there’s barely any HTML/CSS formatting at all on my part.  To me, the website is just another tool to use to share what I’ve seen and done with anyone who is interested.

The whole photography process has become a very meaningful thing to me.  The act of searching for that perfect shot, waiting for the light to be just right is both challenging and deeply rewarding.  Going back through the pictures taken gives me a chance to reflect and delve even deeper into the scene and find new or hidden meanings, even if they are only personal ones.

-Ben

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