As I began this project, the beginning part of the summer was spent becoming acquainted with the various settings of a Nikon D3400 (a DSLR camera). An internship followed with Melissa Moon, a professional photographer in the Cleveland area, where I developed some of the more intricate techniques, such as subject acquisition and ways to influence coloration, outside of and in a professional photoshoot environment. Finally, the project culminated in a trip to Los Angeles, California where I put these newly developed skills to the test in an extremely diverse environment.
While this project was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it left multiple lasting changes. The primary change, being the developed and refined ability to use a DSLR camera to take amazing pictures, was intended, the development of my self-confidence and reduction of social anxiety were definitely not. Traveling to a distant location which neither myself nor my family had ever visited forced me to venture outside of my traditional boundaries. A person can read up and research a location, venues, typical weather, etc., but once at the location, it is typically drastically different from what they may have expected. By the end of the trip with constant changes, I was reassured in my abilities to counter anything that may come up. Additionally, once in California, I broke my typical isolationism and asked locals about the best places to visit, and then quickly restructured my trip as I discovered new information while using this newfound sociability.
Throughout the project I developed much more confidence in my abilities to adapt. Originally, I had planned on a completely different camera, with a wedding based photoshoot, and a much more nature-centric trip. Many components were altered throughout the trip, most unplanned, but there was little I could do. I had never even heard of a maternity shoot (part of my internship) before. Thus, without much experience in this area, I believed that a lot of the photos wouldn’t have been that impressive. Additionally, less than optimal lighting that day presented a challenge and believed that my attempts to counter it would be successful. After Melissa and I reviewed these photos, we were both impressed with the results. She actually requested to use some of them throughout the photo album she planned to present to the couple, bolstering self-confidence in my abilities and demonstrating that I could adapt quickly to a variety of situations.
Although the trip throughout the Los Angeles area had been carefully planned out, the situation quickly changed after arrival. I realized that working everything through a computer does not give a true idea of the experience and circumstances that you will face while traveling. Some venues were too far away to visit, other places were less than optimal depending on the weather, and some (like hiking the larger mountains alone) were much more dangerous than I had initially expected. Consequently, each day I was altering my plans from the original itinerary I presented in my STEP proposal. From minor changes to adjust where in the general region I was visiting, all the way to entirely different venues that replaced ones I had thought would be ideal, the end result was far from what I planned. The trip changed from more nature centric (focusing on the Pacific Coast Highway [untraversable with a bike], the Santa Monica Ranges, the Firestone Scout Reservation, etc.) to a more all inclusive trip (with a focus on the combination of city and nature that are present throughout Los Angeles). Other situational realities, such as strict corporate policies throughout much of the metro area regarding photography, and the impossibility of taking a bike everywhere in the city, were definitely unknown prior to visiting. Even self-confidence in my physical abilities flourished as I was able to walk 20+ miles a day, which I had previously thought impossible.
A trip to an unfamiliar destination is perfect for someone overcoming social anxiety for two reasons: no local knowledge and no repercussions. By knowing very little of the area they are forced to talk to those around them, as many things are still not answerable by the internet. Additionally, the extreme improbability of coming across anyone you encounter on the trip means that it is a low pressure situation in which a person can leave their comfort zone without fear of future interactions when one is unfavorable. I started by asking for food recommendations, then destination recommendations, and finally just random small talk with people around me. This led to meeting a family from Alabama on top of the US Bank tower, graduates of The Ohio State University on the top of the mountain behind the Griffith Observatory, and even a college couple from Quebec who spontaneously decided to visit Malibu for a week. Even though nothing groundbreaking was said, it was nice to have some conversation when traveling alone and develop skills in “small talk”. The lyft’s I took were the perfect situation that forced me to powerplay a conversation. With roughly 10 to 15 minutes in the car, conversation was necessary since the silence would be unbearable. Typically, I introduced myself with an “elevator speech” about why I was in California. Then instead of sitting in silence for the rest of the trip, I learned to develop small talk. This was much more pleasant than I would have thought. I learned about the lives of the drivers and heard how some traveled the country, while others were attending college, and still others were just trying to make it to next the paycheck.
The most unique of these experiences was meeting a driver by the name of Elod Elron. After the initial elevator speech, we discussed my future medical career aspirations. He began to discuss how while preparing for your career is important, you must learn to develop yourself and your interests. The conversation moved to discussions of how he was a licensed pilot, a programmer, and a certified dive instructor. Being extremely skeptical of what he claimed (as anyone in that situation would be), I asked him why he was driving for lyft. I discovered he was coming back from a dive and was going to get paid by taking someone back from the area through lyft, so why not? Knowing that I was doubted him, he implored I look in the back seat, and then google him. Not only did he have scuba diving gear in the backseat but he also had four separate books on amazon and his linkedin page had verification of each of his certifications. At this point I had arrived at my hotel, but he left me with the parting idea that a person should never live a year that feels like a week, and a week should feel like a month. If you only have so much time on this Earth, why waste it in a trance?. My trip had been the perfect example of this; even though it had only been a week, it felt much longer and I had developed more than throughout the rest of the summer.
While I initially ventured into this project with the hope that I would develop my interests in photography, I left with infinitely more. My photography had definitely improved after the internship with Melissa and, even throughout the week the technique behind each picture noticeably improved. My favorite pictures came after I learned the area and how to properly shoot in the venue, which unfortunately came later in the week. As I continue with my education at The Ohio State University, and throughout professional school, photography will remain one of my predominate hobbies. There is a remarkable improvement in quality of photos that I have taken recently, with this STEP project functioning as the main springboard due to the introduction to proper photographic techniques.
The arguably more important developments weren’t even photography related. As I continue to pursue medical school, and eventually a career in healthcare, both self-confidence and personability will remain essential. Having faith in your decisions, and remaining confident that you will be able to accommodate any situational changes is at the center of a diagnosis. Medicine is far from a perfect science, and thus this adaptability and ability “to think on your feet” will be essential for success in a career in medicine. Additionally, while it is necessary for a doctor to be able to treat the clinical disease, they most certainly also need to have good bedside manner. Part of this is being able to converse with a patient and develop a relationship even if the two do not share anything in common. The patient’s mental health is just as important the patient’s physical health. This relationship that develops from a single conversation could mean the difference for the success of a treatment. Patients may withhold information or not follow their treatment instructions if they are uncomfortable with their physician. Thus, much like the development of my photography skills, this STEP project spurred the development of personability throughout my professional endeavors, and I have already experienced some of the benefits this semester.
The following images are some of what I’ve edited. Many more are to come, but will be upload to a separate Google Photos Library.