Nostalgia: My Alma Mater

I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic lately. Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons, or the season of change I am going through personally. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking back on the people and places that have helped shape who I am. As for a lot of people, a big part of that for me was my college experience. I went to a very small liberal arts college in the hills of West Virginia called Bethany College.  Bethany was affiliated with the church denomination I grew up in, and when I took a trip to Bethany in middle school as part of a church history education trip, I decided that was where I was going to college. I toured only two other colleges (Miami of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati, in case anyone cares) and applied only to Bethany (which, in retrospect, is not really an approach I would endorse, because what if I hadn’t gotten in? But that’s what I did). And then I spent four wonderful years there.

Bethany is so beautiful, and it was about the perfect distance from home – close enough I could go home for a weekend if I wanted, but no so close my parents could just pop in unannounced. :) It was also not far from Pittsburgh, so if we wanted some city shopping, clubs, or food, we could be there in about an hour. And I’m not kidding when I say Bethany was *small* – my graduating class was around 200 people. Even “big” lecture classes were engaging, and for our  smaller seminars and classes, professors would even sometimes host us at their homes. There was one bar in town, Bubba’s, and who can go wrong with a bar called Bubba’s?

Because of its small size, you got to know your classmates really well. I’m fortunate that I’ve retained a lot of friendships from school, particularly from my sorority.  I went into college dead-set against against joining Greek life, but once I met the women from Kappa Delta there, I knew I had found a home away from home. We were, by and large, a band of misfits, but damn, did we have fun together, and loved each other as fiercely as sisters should.

I was up in WV a few years ago for a wedding (my Bethany freshman year roommate!) and had some free time, so drove up to the school to wander around a bit. And then I never did anything with the photos, until this weekend, when my nostalgia encouraged me to finally get around to them. So, without further ado, here is dear old Bethany.



Light Painting Workshop: Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

One of the coolest things about photography (or art in general) is there is always the chance to learn something new and keep growing your abilities. The day I think I know all there is to know about photography and can’t do anything to get better is the day I know I should put away my camera. There is always always always some new aspect to explore! So, with that in mind, last month I made the trek with my friend Evan to the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) in Weston, WV, for a light painting workshop.

The workshop was put on by a great local group, Road Runner Photography Tours, and I admit I had no idea what I was getting into. I was intrigued because I had heard of light painting but knew nothing about it and because I LOVE old, falling apart buildings and ghosts, so going to TALA for anything was a dream come true. The leaders of the tour were awesome – gave a great lecture beforehand to help educate us about light painting and then walked around the asylum during the night as we worked to help set up some interesting shots with different techniques and answer questions.

If you’re not familiar (like I really wasn’t), light painting is just what it sounds like – set yourself and your camera up in a dark or low-lit space and then illuminate parts of the space with different light sources. You can use anything from regular hardware store flashlights to heavier duty lights  with colored gels to glow sticks and colored light sabers – all kinds of neat stuff. There also doesn’t really seem to be a “wrong” way to do it – it’s a lot of trial and error to create the effect that you’re looking for. The key is really to have a tripod and a vision, because for most instances, you’ll want to take several different exposures with different ways of light painting and then layer them together in post-production (I use Photoshop) to make a composite.

If I came away from this workshop having learned anything, it’s that I have a LOT more to learn. As I went through my images, I was definitely making a mental list of what to do differently for next time! But I feel that, for my first time giving this a shot, these didn’t come out too shabby at all. Hope you enjoy!

The one below is a composite of three different images – we lit each room individually with its respective color and then I put them together in post production.

TALA3One of our great instructors, Denise, posing as an asylum patient for us

TALA7This is a cool effect created by having white lights on the inside of a bicycle tire and spinning it on its side on the ground, creating this neat dome of light

IMG_6522 TALA5The glowing “waterfall” is created by someone spinning flaming steel wool (sometimes called “woolies”). I’m not going to give a “don’t try this at home” message, because obviously people do and are fine, but I will say to keep in mind that this is METAL or FIRE and so obviously precautions need to be taken. I found this blog post that gives a great explanation on how to create this effect safely, and if you have any doubts about whether you’re comfortable doing this or not, don’t do it

TALA1 TALA4 TALA6 This is actually probably my favorite from the night, and it’s not a composite – the typewriter (which I loved on its own!) was lit in just one shot IMG_6543


And leaving you with one final woolie!