Visuals of Storytelling

Mt. Cook, New Zealand, 2019, taken by Connor McClain

Over the years, I have taken thousands and thousands of photographs. My phone is always in my pocket on every adventure, lunch with friends, party, and even the occasional hike. I have never been a hobbyist of photography but if I had the money, I would be in a heartbeat.

Photography gives you the ability to capture any moment you want and preserve it for as long as the medium survives. When I take photos, I usually take them of my friends or landscapes. Visiting really cool places with friends and family are amazing so being able to have physical memories to look back on are so powerful. I think when I take pictures, I try to use more-creative approaches like the Rule of Thirds or abstract subject positioning. These angles and compositions give the photo more depth and character compared to always having a subject in the dead center of the frame.

Whenever I take pictures, I always hope to capture the emotion I was feeling at the time. When I studied abroad, I was so full of excitement and awe so I wanted to take visually striking photographs that conveyed that emotion. Some of the destinations I visited were so breathtakingly desolate I wanted to capture the sheer size of what I was seeing but at the same time maintain the dark, dismal color palette in all of its beauty.

Lake Wanaka, The Wanaka Tree, taken by Connor McClain, 2019

Every time I show my family and friends the pictures I take, they always praise me and tell me I should “go professional” like every good, supporting friend and family member. I think my pictures are great but not in a conventional sense. I like them because I took them. They remind me of times when I was the happiest. At peak Connor, to an extent.

After reading Becoming a Better Photographer by Alan Levine and watching the How Photography Connects Us TED Talk, there are a few key takeaways I can use to make my photographs better:

  • Looking to the light – Paying attention to where the light is in a scene or on a subject can make a huge difference.
  • Exposing for Aesthetics – I never realized the potential that playing with different shutter speeds and apertures can create dynamic effects in real time. I don’t have a DSLR camera so I don’t have the ability to manipulate photos in a similar way but on my phone, there are photography applications that can replicate the same effects.
  • Using foreground to enhance background – Having a great background is nice but a great way to add depth is to add an interesting foreground subject. This can help you learn how to avoid clutter and distracting elements.

Pictures have very powerful ways of storytelling. A picture of a lion post-meal can show you the harsh realities of wildlife. A photograph of a soldier coming home from deployment, hugging their spouse. With images, the audience can see a glimpse into a world they are unaware of. Giving people the opportunity to look behind the curtain of certain industries and places is a fantastic way to grow awareness and tell a story of a specific life.