Chapters 1, 2, & 3

Chapter 1: My Favs

As I was looking through my library on Lightroom, I actually had a hard time choosing which pictures I wanted to put up.

For a little back context for those of you who are reading, our class assignment was, “Sit down with your favorite photographs. Not the ones everyone likes, and not the “perfect” ones (though they might be the same). Your own favorite images. What do they have in common? …”

I have over 1,000 pictures I could chose from so this assignment was hard for me, but ultimately I had a few pictures in mind which are below.

A road side path and the Mediterranean Sea off of the Island of Capri.
A staircase in Vatican City, Italy.
My angel of a puppy dog, Luke.

The first 2 pictures are from my trip to Italy this summer with my family. We saw so many different sights and landmarks, but I think these pictures were 2 of my favorites that I took on the trip. I think they show off a little bit of the architecture in Italy as well as how carefully the land was crafted. Although the picture of the staircase in Vatican City is black and white, the way I chose to edit it (at least I think) speaks volumes to the color, just as the color in the picture from Capri. The last picture of my dog, though, is my favorite picture of all time. I remember taking that picture and just being genuinely happy looking out on my backyard and looking down to see how relaxed he was – everything about that day was really as vibrant as it looks it that picture. I think looking at all these pictures, I like to focus mostly on point of view, as well as the color and the mood the picture sets.

Chapter 2: Questions

There are 12 questions in chapter 2 that David Duchemin poses that make a photographer think about the way they’re capturing pictures. For my first photograph of Capri, I decided to focus on the questions of,

  • What role does color play?
  • What is the light doing?
  • Is there depth in my image? Could there be more? Would it benefit from less?

I think color plays a huge role in this picture. Because the side of the mountain and the pathway are grey and brown, it helps the greenery stand out as its own factor in the picture. And of course, you can’t forget that beautiful Mediterranean water. That in itself could be a whole other picture with the different blues in it.

The lighting is hitting the water in just the right way that it’s illuminating the water instead of the side of the mountain. If it were opposite, it would draw the viewers eye to the mountain and not the main focus of the picture – which is the water itself.

There is depth to this image. I don’t believe that having more or less depth would give the picture a different feeling, it would just show more of the mountain and the ocean. I like the depth that I capture within this image, it forces the eye to concentrate on what’s there.

For the second picture of the black and white staircase I captured in Vatican City, I decided to focus on the questions,

  • What is it about this specific moment that made me choose it instead of waiting a moment or two longer, or making the photograph a moment sooner?
  • What are the lines in this photograph, and would a change in framing (vertical or horizontal), aspect ratio (square frame, 16:9, etc), or lens make them stronger or weaker?
  • Are there repeated elements in the scene that provide a visual echo or rhythm to the photograph? Could I pull out a little and include more of them, or tighten up a little and include fewer?

The reason I took this picture when I did is because of the way the sun was coming in through the roof. It was hitting the lighter side of the picture but not the darker side. I knew when I was taking this picture that I wanted to edit it in black and white because of the architecture of the stairs, so I waited for the sun to come out from behind the clouds and waited for the moment when it hit the spiral the right way. If I took it too soon or waited a second longer, I don’t think this picture would have the same visual appeal as it does.

Because the staircase is spiraling, flipping the picture to a vertical view would have a completely different feel. I feel as though taking the picture like this helps the eye track the natural spiral of the staircase, so like I said above its visually appealing to the eye. I think changing the way I placed the lens would make the picture a lot weaker over all.

The spiral of the staircase as well as the lines of the steps themselves are the repeated elements in this picture. I believe I did a good job at capturing the right amount of this structure, so pulling out more or cutting in more wasn’t even an option for me. Doing so would change the feel overall.

For my third and final picture of my puppy, Luke, I chose to focus on the questions,

  • What are the relationships between the elements, and can a shift in my position, or change in my lens, make those relationships stronger?
  • Is there depth to my image? Could there be more? Would it benefit from less?
  • What thought or feeling am I trying to express in this photograph?

I’m from Lancaster, PA, so of course I have a farm in my backyard. When someone thinks of Lancaster, they think of open fields and horse and buggies, and this picture basically encompasses what Lancaster is all about. I wouldn’t shift my position or change my lens because it was a more cut in picture, I feel like people wouldn’t get the whole effect the picture is portraying. I think the elements of the blue sky, the super green grass, the farm and my dog all tie together because they’re all related to nature in some way or another.

There’s a very large amount of depth in this picture. I think it uses the depth well because at the fore front – and the main focus – is my dog, but you also get a feel of what the area in the background is like from the amount of depth used.

When I took this picture, I remember it being the perfect fall day – the air was chilly but not too cold and it smelled like fall (as weird as that sounds I think people know what I’m talking about). Obviously Luke was so relaxed laying there with me, as was I, so I want people to feel that when they look at this picture.

Chapter 3: The Manual

Reading the manual for my camera was definitely interesting. I’m the kind of person that learns by doing and not by just reading and absorbing, so personally for me it didn’t help at all. I already know how to use most of the features on my camera, but I just went through and played around with it a little more than what I did in the past.

 

 

This Place Doesn’t Mess Around

Now I gotta say, walking into Terror Behind the Walls I didn’t really know what to expect. The last time I was at a haunted house attraction was when I was a junior in high school – 5 years ago. Although Halloween is my favorite time of year and spooky things have always appealed to me, each year has gotten busier and busier, slipping by without me being able to go back to a haunted attraction.

Being from Lancaster PA, there are 2 major haunted attractions I grew up going to. Jason’s Woods also features 5 terrifying attractions, just like TBTW. They include the Horrifying Hayride, Chamber of Horror, Zombie Apocalypse, Lost in Jason’s Woods, and Carnival of Fear. Jason’s Woods also offers a few different food trucks, live bands, and ‘horror shows’ that play throughout the night to keep the public entertained.

The other major heart stopper in Lancaster is Field of Screams. Unlike Terror Behind the Walls and Jason’s Woods, Field of Screams only offers 4 haunted attractions. These terrifying experiences (and I can attest to them being terrifying because I’ve done them multiple times) have your skin crawling by the time you’re finished. They include the Haunted Hayride, the Den of Darkness, the Frightmare Asylum, and the Nocturnal Wasteland. If getting yourself scared silly isn’t really your thing, they also have a huge midway area with games, food, drinks, live music, and magic and horror shows, as well as an alternative options for kids ages 2-12 called Corn Cob Acres.

A character featured in the Den of Darkness haunted house attraction.

Having visited both Jason’s Woods and Field of Screams when I was younger, I guess I kind of knew what I was getting myself into. BUT considering the amount of time it’s been (yes, again, 5 years) since I’ve done anything like this, I forgot that I would be scared to walk through my own house alone at night… and maybe during the day too…

Terror Behind the Walls takes everything to the next level, and I’m talking big time. Standing in line to get in, obviously you’re already a little on edge knowing what you’re about to walk through. But of course, they take it a step further and have back-from-the-dead nurses and doctors walking around to scare you while you’re waiting.

As we got towards the entrance, we started to hear sirens that sounded like a police car or an ambulance. The inside roped in section was lit with a dark red color, and as we got towards the gate to be released, we had the option to grab a red glow stick – which meant we opted in for the more intense experience. I stayed clear of that option, but other people around me grabbed a band without hesitation.

Waiting for our group to be released into Terror Behind the Walls was a lot more nerve wracking than I thought it would be, but as the ‘monsters’ so to speak let the rope down, we started walking towards our first obstacle. There was a big, yellow and black abandoned school bus that we had to walk through to see the gates of the first scare, ‘Lock Down’.

I definitely don’t want to give anything away by saying too much, but like I said before Terror Behind the Walls really outdid themselves this year. Unfortunately, they are officially closed for the season but I will be back again next year and I highly recommend you going as well! I’ll leave what the attractions were like up to your imagination, but here’s a sneak peak at what this season looked like from MikeAdamOnAir from NYC’s 92.3 Amp Radio station.

 

 

 

 

 

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All screenshots are courtesy of Jason’s Woods, Field of Screams, and Terror Behind the Walls ‘ official website(s).

A Look Into Samantha Hunter

When going into my interview with a woman named Samantha Hunter, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was she going to be reserved and more quiet, enough so to make the interview awkward (so to speak), or was she going to be the complete opposite?

To my pleasant surprise, Ms. Hunter was above and beyond what I expected. When I was greeted at the gate of the Penitentiary, she gave me the warmest smile and a handshake to introduce herself. She told me to call her Sam, and thanked me for coming to interview her. I could tell she was excited to share the knowledge that she has learned over the past few years that she worked at Eastern State.

To start off, Sam grew up in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania which is known for being an old coal mining town. From there, she earned her bachelors degree at Wilkes University in History and Education. By 2013, she was already moving on to graduate school at Villanova University in Philadelphia. Here she earned her degree in Public History and graduated by 2015.

Before graduation, Ms. Hunter saw an opening as a tour guide at Eastern State and was lucky enough to secure a spot on the team. The staff at the Penitentiary were impressed with Sam’s knowledge and excitement to learn and only 4 short months after working as a tour guide, she was offered the position of Specialist in Education.

As the Specialist in Education at the prison, Sam’s main responsibility is developing and implementing student and family programming. This means she handles all requests, whether they come from a family looking for more information about the prison who wants to speak to someone other than a tour guide, or a student who wants to connect (such as me for example). Basically, if you want to know anything and everything about the prison, Samantha Hunter is your go to girl.

Throughout the interview, Ms. Hunter gave me an extensive history on the prison and all its secrets. As I talked to Sam, I learned that Eastern State was the first Penitentiary to have a solitary confinement area. I also learned the interesting fact that out of the 100 inmates that escaped the prison, 99 were recaptured and put back into the system.

Sam also told me the more family friendly version of prisoners at Eastern State. Pep the Dog, who was Governor Gifford Pinchot’s Black Lab, was donated to the prison to use as a therapy dog for the inmates. Although the dog was truthfully and in fact used as a companion, the prison made up an elaborate story to keep things interesting. The story is told as Pep murdered the other pet in the family, which was a cat, and was sentenced to life in prison at the Penitentiary.

We also discussed the infamous Terror Behind the Walls attraction, which Sam said she absolutely loves. She’s been through it every year since it’s opened, and still enjoys it just as much as the last. In her opinion, the first attraction, Lock Down, is the scariest one and her favorite one to go through. She did mention though, it’s also kind of funny for her to walk through because she knows most of the actors on a personal level.

Overall, I think my interview with Ms. Hunter went really well. Although everything I learned was probably what I could have also learned from research, it was super helpful to get a first hand perspective on Eastern State from someone who has been there for 3 years working from the inside.

Terror, Horror, Fright … You Name It, We Got It

Personally, I am a HUGE fan of scary stuff. Haunted houses, scary movies, ghost stories, paranormal documentaries, they are all up my alley. I could spend hours researching any one of these subjects, so when I chose Eastern State Penitentiary to research, I couldn’t have set myself up for a more perfect subject.

ESP is one of the countries most historic tourist sites, but one thing they’re also very well known for (other than housing Al Capone), is their haunted house. Terror Behind the Walls is, “One of America’s scariest Halloween attractions”, according to The Travel Channel.

Starting in 1991, Terror Behind the Walls opened at Eastern State to the public as an annual Haunted House Halloween fundraiser, run by the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. As the Halloween fundraiser first got started, there were mini theater performances as well as stories told to the public about the murders and violence that happened when the prison was open. The ESPHS staff as well as the ESP staff stepped up their game though, and in 2001 opened a few more attractions.

Within the year of ’01, the prison was broken up into 3 smaller haunted attractions for the public. One of the attractions within the walls was a 3-D haunted house, and at the time was the only 3-D attraction of its kind in Southeastern Pennsylvania. 2 years later, 4 new attractions were built behind the walls of the Penitentiary.

These individual haunted houses stuck around with a few minor changes for about 10 years, but in 2014, 6 bigger – and much scarier – houses opened. The 2014 reveal included houses by the titles of “Lock Down”, “The Machine Shop”, “Detritus”, “Infirmary”, “The Experiment”, and “Night Watch”. Sticking with 6 houses since 2014, a few have been added and dropped.

Now I have to say even though I love haunted things, I’m a baby when it actually comes to going to do the walk through. When I saw what the attractions were for the 2017 season, I was SO excited to go and see what the hype was all about … and then I watched the promo videos for them …

This year, Eastern State Penitentiary is offering 6 updated attractions; one of which is completely new. “Lock Down”, “Infirmary”, “Machine Shop”,  “Quarantine 4-D”“Breakout”, and the newest house “Blood Yard” are the attractions of 2017 that are sure to scare your pants off.

All 6 attractions are continuous, so if you decide to enter you do them all which takes about 45 minutes to an hour. I personally have not gone through Terror Behind the Walls yet, but I’m going in a few days so the blog post on that is soon to come!!! 🙂

 

 

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*Screenshot courtesy of the Terror Behind the Walls official website

What Exactly IS Eastern State Penitentiary?

When people think of Eastern State Penitentiary, most think about their haunted house, Terror Behind the Walls, that’s known around the U.S as one of the top rated and scariest haunted attractions. But what a lot of people don’t know and don’t focus on, is that there is a lot of history behind the “ghost ridden” prison that dates back to 1700’s and goes up until modern day, 2017. To see a full detailed outline of one of the most famous prisons, visit Eastern State Penitentiary’s official website, but if you don’t feel like visiting the site don’t worry, I’ll hit the important stuff.

Eastern State opened in 1776, but at the time was called something different. Known then as the Walnut Street Jail, this small prison was first opened to get rid of overcrowding issues at Philadelphia’s Old Stone Jail. Although opening the Walnut Street Jail prevented some overcrowding, Dr. Benjamin Rush saw the prisoners’ conditions in a different light. In 1778, he started a society called The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. Known as the first prison reform group in the entire world, this news caught wind of the one and only Benjamin Franklin, who joined the society in August of 1778. He was an active advocate for the issue of cruel and illegal treatment of inmates, and because of the groups doing the society is still around today, known as the Pennsylvania Prison Society, which promotes social justice as well as correctional reform.

Moving forward a few years, 16 single cells were built within the Walnut Street Jail. These cells were known as the jail’s “Penitentiary House” and here took place experimental trails with solitary confinement; both during the day and at night. When news reached Dr. Rush that solitary confinement was now being thrown into play, his society pushed even harder for the opening of a bigger prison. In 1821, the societies efforts finally paid off, as there was approved funding from the Pennsylvania Legislature to build what would become one of the most infamous landmarks to date.

In early October of 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary’s doors finally opened to inmates. Over the following years, Eastern State reached many milestones including their first female prisoner in 1831, as well as the starts and finishes of 9 different cell blocks and the first escape from the prison.

100 years after the opening, the ESP took on its most infamous inmate; Chicago gangster Al Capone. During his 8 months at the prison, the Philadelphia Public Ledger wrote an article on Capone’s cell, describing it as, “The whole room was suffused in the glow of a desk lamp which stood on a polished desk…. On the once-grim walls of the penal chamber hung tasteful paintings, and the strains of a waltz were being emitted by a powerful cabinet radio receiver of handsome design and fine finish…”

Capone’s Cell

As the 1980’s rolled around, the Penitentiary eventually became abandoned and in 1994 it officially opened as a historical site in Philadelphia for tourist from all over the country. To this day, ESP is one of the most visited tourist sites in the Philadelphia area.

 

350 Words on Hair … Is It Possible?

Analyzing the Hair …

Sitting in the student center, I observe a girl with dark, long wavy hair.

What made her catch my eye was that her hair was so long it was almost down to her butt – it’s literally the hair I always dreamed of having when I was in high school. As she was walking around the student center getting food, her hair was swinging behind her effortlessly, almost like a waterfall of dark brown color.

As someone comes up to hug the girl, their bracelets get stuck in the girls hair. As the other girl pulls away from the hug, the girl that I am observing bends in a weird way and makes a face like she is in pain, but laughs it off and pulls her cascade of hair in front of her to help the other girl get the bracelets untangled.

As they part ways, the girl goes to sit down at a table to eat her food with a group of friends. As she sits down, her hair gets stuck between her back and the back of the chair she is sitting in. She readjusts herself and her hair to get comfortable, and as her hair falls over the back of her seat, I can see better the colors and texture that she has.

The girls hair is even better looking close up. I can see that she uses virtually no heat products on her hair, and as a result of that she has no split ends. She has one of the healthiest heads of hair I’ve ever seen, and the color makes it even better. At her roots, you can tell that she is a lighter brown color naturally. But as you follow down her hair, it has strategically placed darker blonde and red highlights. These highlights go from the top of the girls head to close to the bottom of her hair, leaving the bottom a little untouched to again show her natural lighter brown color. The texture of the girls hair is thicker and wavy, again showing that she leaves it untouched, other than the highlights that are currently present. As she gets up to walk away, her long hair again swings behind her effortlessly.

My Reflections and Activities …

When I first walked into the student center, I didn’t really know how I was going to pick out the subject I was going to observe. I was kind of looking around like a lost puppy, not knowing who to pick as my unknowing victim – so to speak. I had a friend with me, so when I explained the blog post to her she was also on the lookout for possible subjects to observe as well.

We both spotted the girl I decided to observe at the same time, and decided that out of all the people – who were a majority of guys at the time – she would be the best and most interesting subject to focus on. As we were deciding where to sit, we both kind of stood there like stalkers to see where the girl was going to sit down. We coincidentally happened to get a table 2 away from her, but also looking at her back. This was the perfect position because I was able to observe her without looking like too much of a creeper.

As I was sitting and observing, it was kind of obvious that I was there for a project or to take notes, and not to eat. So to blend in, I decided to get myself food, as did my friend, to blend in a little bit better. I was slowly eating but I was more into observing the girl than I was into my food.

At one point throughout my observation, I actually think her friends saw me staring in their direction and writing things down, but I just played it off as if I was looking somewhere else (whoops).

Overall, I think the experience was a good one. It made me really dig deep and look at personal details on one specific subject, as compared to focusing on the bigger picture as a whole.

 

 

 

From Jottings to Distinct Scenes …

Scene 1 … And Action

There are two men walking out of the library and towards the student center.

One is wearing a blue shirt, khaki shorts, high white Nike socks and white Adidas sneakers. On both of his wrists, there are different colored bracelets. The right wrist has 2 green bracelets, and the left wrist has a pink and green bracelet, as well as a pink, blue and orange watch. He is carrying a green Nalgene water bottle, and coincidentally his Patagonia backpack is also different shades of green. There is a blue bandana tied around the top loop of his backpack, as well as an Autism Awareness bandana – which is multiple colors including pink, green, blue, and yellow.

The other man is wearing a black shirt with an all white American flag on it and under the flag reads “Rio 2016”. He is wearing grey cut off sweat shorts, high black Nike socks and white Nike sneakers. He is also wearing a red hat, but it is turned backwards.

As the guys walk by, I overhear their conversation. They are presumably seniors, as they are discussing their upcoming Business Policy exam later that day. Both of the men look exhausted, as the one wearing the hat flips it the right way. As they walk by, I hear the stress in their voice about the exam. Because of the distance I am, I can’t exactly make out what they were saying, but I did hear the the man in the khaki shorts say, “It’s so much work and so many concepts wrapped into one, I just don’t know how I’m gonna do man”.

The man in the black t-shirt and grey sweat shorts nodded and agreed, and they both entered the student center together.

 

Scene 2 … And Action

There are 2 girls sitting outside of the library on big steps that are popular to study / sun bathe on.

The first girl is wearing a faded navy blue hat, a grey-black sweatshirt, black leggings, and Adidas classic shell top sneakers. Accompanied by her outfit she is wearing rings on both of her hands. On her left hand, there are silver rings on her pointer and middle finger, and on the right hand there silver are rings on her pointer, middle, and ring finger.

The second girl is wearing a very similar outfit, but without the hat. She is wearing a dark grey sweatshirt with a black vest over top, along with black leggings for pants and black Vans sneakers. On her right hand, she is wearing a silver ring on her middle finger with a purple stone in the middle, and a plain silver ring on her pinky finger. On her left hand, she is also wearing 2 silver rings; one on her middle finger which is a Cladaugh ring, and another on her ring finger which has a big green stone in the middle. Her nails are painted white and her skin is tan.

Because I am within ear shot of these 2 girls, I can hear what they are discussing. The tan girl is talking about her midterm exam in physics that she had earlier that morning. She is describing to her friend what was on the exam, and proceeds into saying how hard it was and that she thought she failed because the professor didn’t teach them anything he put on the exam. The girl in the hat talks the tan girl up, saying that she always says she fails exams and ends up getting A’s on them.

They then move into a different conversation about the exams they have the following day, which are in philosophy and AP biology. Both of them say their exams are going to be impossible, but that they’re going to study as much as they can before an event they are attending later that night.

As they keep discussing the event, I gather that they are part of a sorority, and the event they are discussing is their date party. The tan girl asks for pictures of the girl in the hat’s dress, and swoons over whatever she sees on the IPhone screen.

After this interaction, the girls proceed to get up and walk into the library.

 

 

Field Notes: Take 1 … And Action

On Wednesday, October 4th we were assigned to do something a little different for the class period. Because we’re getting ready to go to our clients and interview them, we had to know how to take field notes of our surroundings; or at least get a feel for how to take them. We only had 30 minutes to go out around the Student Center and for the time we had I think it went pretty well … but you guys can be the judge of that!

 

This is the first page of field notes I took. I tried to keep everything abbreviated so I had enough time to write everything down that I was seeing, feeling, and smelling. In the first section, I was in the back of the Student Center and as soon as I walked out the doors it instantly smelled like bacon. There was a woman, who was a worker, sitting to the right of me when I walked out the doors. From there, I went around to the front of the student center and encountered an older man who was playing on his phone by himself. I sat at a picnic table near him and noticed that the sun was shining, there was a constant wind, and the trees around me were rustling as a result of the wind blowing.

 

 

This is the second page of field notes that I wrote. I was focusing on sounds at first, with birds chirping, as well as an insect that sounded like a cricket. Then 2 girls walked by and I observed them for a while and noticed something really interesting. They were walking next to each other and were clearly friends, but they were both talking on their phones. It just went to show how connected we are to social media and technology. After the girls walked past, I began to focus on 2 maintenance workers at the front of the student center. They were furiously working on trying to tear a trash can out of its place, and they were visibly getting annoyed and impatient with the process. They were both wearing neon yellow shirts, but the younger guy had his blue hat flipped backwards and the older man had his grey hat faced forward.

 

 

Continuing my observations of the maintenance workers, I also noticed that they were both wearing gloves. As the whole ordeal went on, they got more impatient with the situation. They decided to call someone, who I later observed was another worker. After they got off the phone with him, he was on the scene within 2 minutes but was clearly a boss of some sort – as he was wearing all blue and had something written on his shirt. The final thing that I observed was that a girl walked out the doors of student center and she sneezed; I said bless you and she responded with thank you.