Beginner Photography: An Autumn-Themed Exhibition of my Photo Stories

After launching Finding Sonder on Instagram last year, I’ve connected with fellow travellers who are also talented photographers. It’s true that viewing a photo on Instagram doesn’t convey the same atmospheric effect as it would for the photographer. But, if beautifully composed and edited, it generates a strong emotional response that resonates with me. The photos I see emulate feelings of wonder and curiosity and inspire me to try it myself. And now, I’m taking up the craft as a means to complement my writing. My goal is to explore a new artistic medium that tells a story and demonstrates my creative strengths.

Some of these photos are undoubtedly a bit pixelated and over-exposed, taken by an old Samsung Galaxy that I used while traveling. I still embrace them, because I think that the learning process is an adventure in itself. I have to start somewhere, so why not here?

And what better way to start than to show some autumn photography and get us into the spirit of the season?

Spiritual Solitude, Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds – Taken by my Samsung Galaxy phone.

In 2014, I lived in Leeds for six months, but I only just visited Kirkstall Abbey three years ago. It was typical wet British weather, and I was wandering the ruins alone, sheltered by an umbrella. The photo on the left is one of my favourites from that trip. The path in the middle directs the viewer straight towards the focus point which is the doorway. The black and white adds further mystery and represents the Abbey’s distant past.

Five Sisters of Kintail, Scotland – Taken by my Samsung Galaxy Phone

In my post, Day Three in Scotland: Journey’s End with Whiskey and High Spirits, I talk about the ill-fated Five Sisters and how they transformed into these tall, rugged peaks. Located in Scotland’s Northwest Highlands, the mountains were perfectly illuminated by a ray of sunlight that shined bright spots onto the water. This is an example of how crucial light is for composing a great shot. Here, it trains the eye to focus on the centre of the photograph.

The Witch’s Hat, Iceland: Taken by my Sony Alpha DSLR

Kirkjufell was a highlight from my 2019 Iceland road trip. I shared this photo multiple times and tried different filters and editing programs – my favourite was edited through VSCO. Known as Church Mountain (although it really resembles a witch’s hat), Kirkjufell rests on the narrow peninsula of Snæfellsnes, northwest of Reykjavik. Iceland was a great location to play with shapes and textures through the mountains and volcanic formations.

Alternative Austerity, Berlin – Taken with my Samsung Galaxy phone

Berlin was one of my most memorable destinations. As an avid historian and music lover, Germany’s capital had everything I hoped for – an alternative music scene unmatched by other cities and a history that was both difficult and compelling. Berlin still bears its scars in brutally honest and artistic ways. I initially never expected this photo to stand out (an aspect of photography that I love), and I was later impressed by its composition. Through the use of lines, the tracks guide the viewer’s eye towards the TV Tower, the photo’s primary subject. My intention with the black and white was to emphasize Berlin’s urbanity and grittiness.

Colours and Cuckoo Clocks, Munich – Taken with my Samsung Galaxy Phone

The sounds of Cuckoo clocks and playful chimes filled my ears while taking this photo. After climbing hundreds of steps, I reached the viewing platform of St. Peter’s Church overlooking the main square. It was 5 pm, just in time for the puppets of Rathaus-Glockenspiel to sing and dance. The whimsical music set the tone nicely for me to capture the Frauenkirche, Munich’s red-tinned roofs and the evening sky.

The Tower Bridge, London – Taken with my Samsung Galaxy Phone

Photographers may consider the Tower Bridge an “over-used” subject. But through creative, personal choices, photography enables us to view familiar places through different lenses (literally and figuratively). Regardless of where in Europe I end up, I’m always in London at some point. It’s my hub city and gateway to other European cities via cheap EasyJet or Ryanair flights. I managed to capture the Bridge before strong winds and rain blanketed the city, in classic London fashion. During editing, I created a balance between light and dark, bringing more colour to a cloudy city.

Skeletal Subjects, Kutná Hora, Czechia – Taken with my Samsung Galaxy Phone

This was hands-down, my spookiest birthday. I spent my 26th in small-town Czechia, exploring a church filled with skeletal ornaments. Introducing, Sedlec Ossuary. Despite this rather ghoulish black and white photo, Sedlec was surprisingly, an peaceful place. You’ll find out why in an upcoming post! But my aim here was to amplify the contrast and to focus on a mysterious black “void” in the centre, not knowing where it goes. The subjects (the skulls) were already meticulously placed to emphasize this void. Hey, Halloween is approaching!

Beaming Bryggen, Bergen – Taken with my Samsung Galaxy Phone

This was another one of my favourites. I wanted to accentuate the vibrant colours of Bergen’s harbour, matching the mountain in the background. Even with my phone, this photo turned out beautifully due to perfect lighting conditions at sunset as I returned from a boat tour. Through editing, I contrasted the shadows on the roofs with the natural sunlight at the forefront.

Cycling Through CopenhagenTaken with my Samsung Galaxy Phone

To me, Copenhagen was a city of movement. As one of the world’s bicycle capitals, it’s no surprise that many of my subjects were bikes and streets. I was always moving too, both on wheels and on foot. Again, I opted for the black and white to convey a cosmopolitan feel, although colour would also work well. The natural sun rays from the photo on the right was a lucky accident!

My Bridge of Sighs, Nynäshamn, Sweden –Taken with my Samsung Galaxy Phone

After one glance at this photo, I just can’t stop sighing. Luckily no one is around to cast strange looks at me. I can’t get enough of the autumn colours and really cranked up the saturation a notch. The big yellow barn was perfectly positioned in the middle, and the bridge’s opening reveals a beautiful mirage of the surrounding trees. Sweden was one of my favourite countries, and while it may be off-season, this photo is hopefully enough evidence that autumn is the best time to visit.

Meech Lake, Quebec – Taken by my Sony Alpha DSLR

It was exactly one year ago since my Dad and I visited Gatineau Park and I snapped this photo. More scenic shots of the Park can also be seen here. While we had difficulty accessing the trails due to full capacity, we managed to sneak into Meech Lake shortly before sunset. Of course, I couldn’t ignore the reflections, which were essential elements to this photo. It reminds me of summer vacations at my friend’s cottage when I’d sit by the dock and watch the sunset.

History and Hallowed Halls, WhitbyTaken by my Sony Alpha DSLR

Between fall, 2017 and summer, 2018, I lived in Whitby, located roughly 40 minutes east of Toronto. Although I spent much of my childhood in a neighbouring town, I never truly appreciated downtown Whitby’s culture and heritage until now. The court house is where my Mom and Stepdad got married and it’s one of my favourite buildings. As one of my early photos with this camera, I positioned the building’s entrance directly in the middle to give the appearance of it being slowly “hugged” by tree branches. The black and white creates a spooky effect, considering that the court house may be haunted!

Niagara Falls – Taken by my Sony Alpha DSLR

After canceling my Portugal trip and being cooped up for over 6 months, a 2-hour road trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake was a welcome retreat. It may not be Europe, but it felt like I was far away from home. I wanted to emphasize the Falls’ blue colours and the same hypnotizing feeling that I had when seeing it in person. I also made sure to avoid over-exposing the cloud of mist in order to create texture. This is the closest I got to international travel without crossing the border!

Autumn in Philosopher’s Walk, TorontoTaken with my Sony Alpha DSLR

When it comes to finding green space for autumn strolls, Toronto certainly doesn’t fall short (haha). As part of my seasonal photo series, Philosopher’s Walk is a notable secret spot in the city. Wedged between U of T and the Royal Ontario Museum, it’s a quiet respite from the heavy traffic between Bloor and College Streets. Similar to my photo of Nynäshamn, I wanted more saturation to focus on colour, an element of composition that I like most.

***

My aim through photography is to not only support my writing but to also strike an emotive response using colour, light, textures, lines and shapes. From my study abroad travels in 2014 to my 2020 backyard adventures, these were taken by my DSLR and phone camera and enhanced through my computer editing software. I hope to take the next step soon and use Lightroom and most importantly, get a new camera and lens!

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