Interview with Kayleigh Y.
Photo Contest grand-prize winner Kayleigh Y. will travel on the 2016 Prague Photo Workshop. Here, she tells us more about the winning shot, how she discovered a passion for photography, and her plans for the future.
Tell us a little more of the story behind this shot. How did you come upon this scene? How long were you working on it? What were you thinking about as you were setting it up, etc.?
I was on a French exchange trip through my high school when I took this photo. It was a holiday and a long weekend for the French, and my hosting family thought we should spend the time in the Alps. We were exploring the viewing platforms of the Aiguille du Midi, the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without climbing it, when we came upon this magnificent view. I was standing there for a few minutes simply in awe, because I had never experienced being in the mountains before. I took this photo in a matter of minutes, because I was honestly thinking less of the composition of the picture, and more of how amazing it must be to hike the tallest peak in the alps.
I used my personal Lumix G12 and the kit lens to take this picture. I did have to fix the settings, such as exposure, because the snow plus the sunshine made it extremely bright.
How did you become interested in photography and what do you enjoy most about it?
I think I’ve always had an interest in photography. I loved using our little digital camera when I was younger, from taking pictures to making stop-motion animations. Now I have more experience and knowledge about cameras and their settings, and I can accomplish more through my photography. I really love the control you have over the camera, but the element of surprise that comes with any environment. You may be able to control the ISO and the depth of field, but you can’t control how the weather may create the perfect picture, or what interesting people cross your path.
The moment that sticks out in my memory when things “clicked” for me, so far, is probably the day my family and I were traveling around County Cork, Ireland. Exploring Mizen Head, the southernmost part of Ireland, I noticed a small, shiny bug (which turned out to be a beetle) on a big plant that spanned the entire walkway. I realized, after taking a picture of it, how much photography has made me more focused and observant, and how taking an extra moment to really soak up your surroundings can result in noticing something really cool.
How does photography impact the way you see the world?
Photography has completely changed the way I look at the world. It has taught me to be more detailed-oriented, as well as to focus on both little things and the big picture. It’s nice to be able to see a large scene, but great pictures can also result from focusing on texture or light, for example.
Do you have any mentors (in photography or otherwise) and what have you learned from them?
First and foremost, my parents are a substantial inspiration for me; neither my mom nor my dad was born in the United States. They both faced hardships when they came to America, from learning English to not having any family relations in the country. My photography and video productions teachers act as mentors for me also, providing positive, constructive criticism on my work which helps me grow as a photographer, videographer, and student. I’ve learned from these people that despite difficulties, flaws, and missed opportunities, and despite how cliché it may sound, everyone has potential, hard work pays off, and we can learn from our mistakes.
How do you think photography and exploration relate to one another?
Photography creates a whole new level of depth that transforms exploration. It’s no longer just about the moment, it’s how you can capture the magic in that moment and really portray it through the medium of a picture.
What has been your greatest adventure so far in life?
The days that my hosting French family and I spent in the Alps have been my greatest adventure so far. Having been my first time in the Alps, or on any mountain for that matter, it reignited a previous fascination with mountains and climbing. The view was spectacular, and the area of Chamonix was quaint and majestic. I am extremely grateful that my hosting family gave me this experience. Now I can only dream of more I adventures in the future, hopefully summiting some mountains myself.
What inspires you?
Loved ones and others, nature, and so many other things act as inspirations for me. Deep-rooted passion for photography also encourages me to always work to create the best pictures I can. Well-known pictures by well-known photographers, images by teenagers with popular photo blogs, and the Chris McCandless quote “The very basic core of a man’s spirit is his passion for adventure” are things I keep in mind when I have a camera in hand. I also make sure to ask myself questions when composing a photograph; what can I change? Is this angle right? Does the lighting compliment the subject? I also take my work, as well as the work of others, and improve myself based on what I see: composition, lighting, depth of field, subject, feeling, and everything else that really makes a subject worth shooting, besides “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours” (“A good sketch is better than a long speech,” quote credited to Napoléon Bonaparte).
Where do you hope to be 5 and 10 years from now?
In five years time I hope to be graduating from college, climbing mountains, and taking pictures. In ten years time I hope to have a solid job while still maintaining my friendships. One important goal, as it is for many people, is to be happy, and if that means having a less-than-desirable job to fund doing the things I love, then it’ll be worth it, and I’ll figure things out as the time comes. My ultimate goal is to be a photographer for National Geographic; challenging circumstances mixed with creative photography and wildlife? Dream job.