Originally, I was going to do my Immersion Project on how the American Culture affects a person, but the girl I was going to interview and focus on told me she was moving to Florida in a few days when I went to interview her. Kibler then suggested that I do my project on photography because I was beginning to get into that. Everyone I interviewed was great and I genuinely enjoyed writing this story. It was so fun to piece together.
The root photo is defined as light. The root graph is defined as a drawing or recording. Therefore, the word photography literally means light drawing. Photographer Bob Adamek adores his job, shooting since 1982, going professional in 2009, writing and shooting for newspapers, magazines, working for JMU for five years and Harrisonburg City Public Schools for three. Junior and aspiring photographer Andrew Rath is on his way to becoming experts in this field as well, working with JMU’s Marketing company, being mentored by JMU photographers and planning to incorporate photography into his career as he goes to Virginia Tech and majoring in marketing management.
“I like the idea of taking a picture that people look at and admire, and say ‘I wish I could have been there,’ Rath said. “It’s the idea of being able to capture a moment in time that will never happen again. After the shutter clicks, the picture is a piece of the past.”
The subject being captured also adds to the excitement. The beauty of what is being captured, the story behind the photo, or the intensity of an experience makes the of the image that much more enjoyable. The picture can be beautiful and good in composition, but there can be a thousand photos taken well. The story behind the photo is really what brings meaning to the image and reminds the photographer of a moment in their life, therefore the picture is cherished.
“The first [favorite picture] is of Lenny Kravitz, which I took in 2009 at Voodoo Fest in New Orleans. The composition came out really nice and it was of a big name act (BNA), so a lot aligned for it. It was also the first major music festival that I got a media credential for, after shooting many mid level festivals. It was seriously exciting to be in the photo pit with like 100 other photographers, all pros,” Adamek said.
Another of his favorites is treasured for similar reasons, but with added value.
“The second photo is of Stanley Clarke on bass and George Duke on keys. That was taken at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2013. Again the same kinds of things aligned for me in this shot, the composition, the BNA, and as an extra thing, George Duke died three months to the day after I took the photo, so it has extra meaning for me,” Adamek said.
Rath’s most-prized of his photos is beloved because of the story, but also his experimentation with the composition.
“One of my favorite pictures is of a waterfall I took before a backpacking trip up Crabtree Falls. The sky was overcast which allowed me to shoot in soft light, bringing out the contrast between the black rocks and the moss. I used a low shutter speed which made the waterfall milky,’ Rath said. “It’s special due to the fact that I took it after backpacking up with a 50 pound pack, so it’s always nice to get a good remembrance after a tough trip.”
Rath shoots a variety of things from conventions to sunsets to portraits, but overall he seems to be more nature-centered in his photos that he takes on his free time and is preparing to experiment outdoors even more.
“For my next project I am going to shoot long exposure lightning which will be extremely interesting and easier now because thunderstorms are more common in Summer,” Rath said. “I have definitely gotten more comfortable behind the lens, I have improved a lot with adjusting my manual settings to correspond with the environment which is crucial…Really the only thing to do to get better is practice, if I feel as if I’m below par on an area I’ll go out and practice that technique until I feel comfortable.”
The connections made while doing the job are greatly valued as well as the product.
“As photographers we work alone for the majority of the year, but at a music fest you get to work with your peers. It is a nice and in some cases close nit group of folks, and often we are friends with the bands we are shooting. Photography is 90% about relationships, the gear and editing only a small part. If you trust the photographer you will get way better photos,” Adamek said. “There is nothing quite like gaining a band’s trust like that and getting to work with them and hang out before and after the shows. Often when you get in good with a band they will let you come up on stage and shoot, and it is quite an experience glancing out at tens of thousands of people while you are working.”
The events, places you can travel and people you can work for are also a part of what makes the job so fun.
“I have shot photos and written for a newspaper and a bunch of music magazines, two of which I still shoot for OffBeat Magazine in New Orleans and Honest Tune Magazine. I have shot for JMU for 5 years and HCPS for 3…I couldn’t possibly enjoy a job more….I adore photography and I love when I get to work. I get so much out of shooting events at HCPS and JMU. I love shooting events like the musicals and plays and I love going into elementary schools to shoot a day of candid photos,” Adamek said. “If I was pressed [to pick a favorite experience], I would have to say the five times I shot Jazz Fest in New Orleans and last year’s Lockn’ Festival in VA are absolute highlights. I got to be in the photo pit with the best concert photographers in the world, the guys from Rolling Stone and Getty Images.”
The final result of the job though, if done correctly, should cause a reaction.
“Certainly [the first thing that makes a photograph great] would be that it causes an emotional response. That the photo stops you from rushing past it and you can take your time looking around it and it makes you feel something,” Adamek said. “If the photo also adds some historical significance, or tells a dramatic story, then you really have a good image working. Lastly, if it can then cause you to think about something with an entirely different perspective, then the image has really got value. Many of these ideas are subjective, but a truly great image often becomes universally regarded.”
Being the great photographer he is today, Adamek still began shooting with just a small camera because he was inspired by a friend.
“My first roommate back in the early 80’s had a camera and he used to take tons and tons of candid shots of our peer group just hanging out, those photos completely fascinated me,” Adamek said. “They represented a certain sense of history and told a story too, and some where just artistically beautiful. That inspired me to get a little camera and try my hand at it.”
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Anyone can pick up a camera and take their first steps towards being a photographer.