The macro photography class I took a couple of weeks ago at the Atlanta Botanical Garden with Charles Needle made me think about how people integrate their personal perspective into the way they tell stories.
I took the class to improve my photography, so my objective for the day was to experiment with different exposures and lighting techniques to learn how each of them would impact my photographs. I chose an orchid, a Phalaenopsis with rose-colored lips and speckled petals. It had a really great pair of magenta fangs that curved upward from its center–like a tiny pair of Gene Simmons tongues.
I spent an entire hour making this orchid my bitch. I went shallow depth of field and focused on the details in the foreground only so people would zoom in on the fangs. Then I went deep depth of field and articulated a lot more of my orchid’s details.
I also experimented with lighting. I held a gold reflector next to the flower to bathe it in a halo of warm glow. I used a white LED flashlight to highlight a single part of the orchid, causing the lips and center to stand out further. Light from a blue LED flashlight distorted the image. In that shot, my orchid glowed turquoise and looked sort of creepy and wrong—like I’d run it through a Photoshop filter, even though I hadn’t.
I changed shot angles. I flooded the petals with red light and created a horror story.When I slowed down the shutter speed and made my orchid look even more horrific—like a carnival fun-house version of the gates of hell. My choice of angle and technique impacted not just the image, but the emotion the image elicited.
At the end of the day, I had to select a single image to share with the rest of my class. It was up to me to determine how everyone else would see–and interpret–that orchid. Up to me to tell that orchid’s story.
As I narrowed down to the one photo I felt described the orchid best, my head buzzed with intoxicating chemicals. In that moment, I was Queen of the Orchids. The Great and Powerful Oz. A political consultant.
Ok, I exaggerate. That’s what I do with my stories, I exaggerate. Not because I mean to, but because exaggeration is how I convey how much I feel about whatever it is I’m telling. This applies as much to when I recap my day to a friend as it does to when I write an essay.
How do you adapt your stories–verbal and otherwise–to convey what you feel?
Do you do it on purpose or is it just something that happens?
PS- I shared the image that appears at the top of the page.