It's been wonderful to see all of the photographs that have already been submitted to our #VoyageHere photo contest in the past week. It will never cease to amaze me how many colors a single sunset boast, how an experience can be captured in a single frame, and that each person meets and views Voyageurs in a way that is utterly unique.
Photography has directed me to a deeper appreciation and understanding of nature, relationships, moments, people, and beyond. Until I started taking pictures for myself, I didn't "get" why moms are always trying to capture every moment of their children's youth, instagram, or the value of carrying a camera with you wherever you go.
I wasn't really even interested in attempting the art, but my mother had different ideas.
Enter: my very first digital camera. I was 14 year old, reluctant, and ungrateful.
My mom enrolled me in a beginners photography class - the influx of jargon and technique had me slowly warming to the idea of photography as an art form. And then she took me out on one of those February mornings where the snow sticks to every tree branch and you feel like you live in a wonderland.
I went home and downloaded all of the pictures to my computer. As I scrolled through them I realized that something in my attitude about photography had profoundly changed.
Every image elicited an emotion. I knew where I was when I took it, the temperature, what day of the week it was, who I was with, and how I felt. I never had these reactions when just looking at photos. I discovered that the act of choosing your subject, framing the image, and taking the shot yourself immensely alters the way you experience photography.
Now, when my eyes are open, I am actually seeing the world - in all of its forms. Good, bad, tragic, beautiful, happy, disappointing, mediocre, awesome.
We sometimes joke that a submission to the contest is "just another sunset." Beautiful, yes, but nearly identical to every other sunset that has been shared with us.
Which is why I decided to make captions an integral part of the contest this year. Nine out of ten photos may be nearly interchangeable, but the stories behind them never will.
Needless to say, I've come around to instagram, and am now guilty of always carrying a camera.
Ella Rausch, Youth & Outreach Coordinator
AmeriCorps VISTA for Voyageurs National Park Association