There’s nothing quite like an impromptu photo shoot to ease your mind, I think to myself as I grab my camera bag and dash across campus.
These sorts of excursions have become relatively commonplace ever since I splurged on a new DSLR camera this past November. Photography—and art in general, I suppose—have always been cathartic outlets for me during good times and bad. This holds true in college: I savor every opportunity to take photos or doodle in the margins of my notes when inspiration strikes, even if it’s slightly inconvenient. After all, when you feel completely overwhelmed by deadlines, assignments, commitments and social drama, sometimes you just need to indulge in a beloved hobby to stay sane.
I break into a swift jog as I head in the direction of the Arboretum, taking a couple of impromptu detours when I notice how the trees above me frame the sky like interweaving vines. A crisp mid-winter breeze grazes my cheeks and fingers, making me regret the fact that I’m not wearing a warmer coat. (Then again, it’s been abnormally warm out as of late, and I didn’t think I’d need one). After a couple dozen shots, I check the viewfinder and smile. The low screen resolution makes it difficult to tell, but I have a feeling that I’ve hit the jackpot.
Against one’s better judgment, I begin to descend an unmarked muddy slope, which leads to the beating heart of the Arboretum. Traversing the well-trodden main path would be futile; time is always of the essence when you have a camera in your hand, and I wouldn’t be able to get a good shot from the green anyway. I quickly assess my surroundings and decide to use a micro lens, which I swiftly procure from the bag hanging by my hip. By the time I’ve attached it to the camera body, I can’t help but gasp at my surroundings.
When you have a camera in your hands, the world begins to look different. You start to notice the most minute of details: how the pond water recedes into a sheet of ice, how barren tree branches create silhouetted reflections at your feet. Colors grow more vivid and endless possibilities spring forth from simple sights you normally take for granted. You become much more alert and sensitive to sudden movement and sound. You lose track of whatever is on your mind and start living in the moment. You take risks just to get that perfect shot, let go of your inhibitions and find ways to overcome technical limitations.
It’s just you, your surroundings, and the camera—and as lonely as that may sound, there’s something oddly comforting about it.
A childlike giddiness immediately washes over me as I rush towards the edges of the twilight, the rays of the setting sun beckoning me to places unknown.