Thursday, October 29, 2009

How photography impacts my world

Mina decided she would like to learn more about photography by leaping on my lesson plan.

I'm taking the New York Institute of Photography's "The Complete Course in Professional Photography" course (redundant, yes).

I love photography. I have loved it since I first handled my dad's film minolta as a kid. There was something enchanting about taking something I had seen and making it almost permanent. As I got older, I lost some interest in photography, due in part to my teenage inability to afford film and printing. I took a class in high school and stopped photography to pursue animal science at university. My dreams were of becoming a vet, a behaviorist, something to do with animals.

Photography was all but forgotten.

And then.

When I started working at an animal sanctuary, I realized I was surrounded by beautiful creatures amidst a pastoral, bucolic setting. More than that, I wanted people to meet the animals who I worked with, animals who most people related to on their plates for dinner.

So three years ago, my parents kindly purchased me my first digital SLR, a Canon EOS 20d for X-mas/birthday. Oh heaven! I fumbled and finagled my way through learning the camera. I realized I still had the eye, an ability to frame a subject in a pleasing manner. Not perfect, just raw data ready to be refined.

I purchased my second camera this year - a Canon EOS 40D refurbished body (and saved hundreds of dollars). It is perhaps unfathomable to some, but I adore the weight of two hefty cameras around my shoulders, the power of stilling time in my grasp. Someday I will have a plethora of lenses but, for now, I have three - a zoom, a prime, a telephoto. They are enough to keep me content.

The class is helping me refine some of my skills. Of course it isn't book knowledge that is helping me, it's the experience, the action of pressing a button, modifying settings, appreciating lighting and doing all I can to enhance the subject. Like all photographers, I am my worst critic - I take hundreds of photos daily, of which ten might qualify as decent. I've calculated that, in the past three years, I have spent more than 2,000 hours taking pictures. I could do it all day for the rest of my life.

Now, I'm no expert (apparently it takes about 10,000 hours, heh), but I hope to be someday. More importantly, I hope my photography gives people pause, helps to capture the intelligence, emotion and beauty of other species, especially farm(ed) animals. Which is why when I received this gem of an email today at work, I was tickled:

Your pictures of the animals at the sanctuary convinced me to stop eating them.

That was it. It made everything I do, all the heart-ache, dedication, work, struggle, all worth it. No matter where you fall on the omni-vegan debate, there is nothing more empowering than knowing that something you did created a positive change in someone's life.

It's been that way with Mina too. I've had people tell me that my pictures of Mina, of her stillness, her gentleness, her poise, beauty, HER essence helped them to get over fears about pit bulls. Some went on to adopt or consider a pit bull for adoption. Others made a point to approach other pit bull owners and ask to pet their dogs (let me tell you a secret: Nothing makes a pit bull guardian/owner happier than when someone asks to pet their dog. Nothing. It might even make them cry a little. Not me, of course. That would be silly).

So if you have a camera, even if you don't know how to use it well, take it and capture moments. Share them with your friends, family, coworkers, blog viewers, etc. ad naseum. You can make a difference in how others see the world.

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