Photography

Prompt B of ApplyTexas: Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how?

The shutter button is released, causing a chain reaction: the lens opens and closes in the span of microseconds, and, for a moment, the world stands still to allow genius or despair to be captured. When I was eleven years old, fresh out of elementary school, I was given the opportunity to travel in Europe for two weeks with a student group. To document my experiences, my parents gave me a small point-and-shoot camera, of the non-destructible variety. That camera’s abilities pale in comparison to even mobile phone cameras of today, but it was my tool to capture the world around me, even if the pictures were a bit grainy. For me, photography is a way to slow down and find the individual frames of beauty in everyday life. Before I became a photography addict, life flashed by in a blur. Now, my days are filled with the images of a cottonwood blossom gently floating outside after a desert storm, or a perfect El Paso sunset that sets the sky on fire. Through a camera lens, everybody and everything looks more interesting.Like any worthwhile pursuit, photography comes with its own brand of frustrations and disappointments. A mistake in photography is irreversible: once the moment passes it cannot be imitated or recreated. When I was 15, after saving up, I bought a professional grade camera, a Canon Rebel T3i. I hurriedly assembled the camera, felt the lens satisfyingly click into the body, and rushed outside to play with my new toy. I looked at the pictures I had taken. White. Blurry. Out of focus. My aspirations to become a photographer were dashed. I had no idea how to work a professional camera. All I had ever done was aim the lens at something and then, almost blindly, push down the shutter. I had never needed to know things like aperture, shutter speed, light sensitivity or white balance. I was a foreigner in a land with a language I couldn’t even begin to understand. I ran back inside, set the camera in the box, and began to wonder how I could’ve been so foolish as to assume that learning the rules of this new world would be easy. I left my camera in a dusty corner of my room and tossed the unopened user’s manual on my bedside table. I guess that I was hoping that the knowledge contained inside the pages would be transferred to my brain by osmosis or magic, but no such thing happened. One afternoon, I timidly approached the camera like it was a ferocious caged animal and lifted it out of its box. I walked outside to a beautiful sunny day, and with trembling hands, turned on the camera. Slowly lifting it up to my eye, I placed a hand on the focus and made the beautiful Franklin Mountains come into view. I gently rested my finger on the shutter. The moment a hawk soared through the viewfinder, I pressed down on the button, like the trigger on a gun. I waited a few seconds, almost as if time would somehow make the photo more attractive, and looked at the screen. The picture was a little bit grainy, definitely out of focus, but not a complete failure. I had done it.As time has progressed, so has my skill and knowledge of photography. Now, my camera feels like an extension of my body and an even better way to communicate than my own voice. I have come to treasure photography because it is a time in which I can relax and be introspective. I have taught myself to accept disappointment and setbacks – to be resilient. Most importantly though, I have learned to be flexible; when one setting doesn’t work, I simply keep searching for the one that does. I have learned to take risks; to never shy away from a vista because it is too challengingly beautiful.

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