Senior Andrew Watkins had always been intrigued by his mother’s old cameras that she kept around the house. When he was younger, Andrew used to play with the cameras and take fake picture of things he saw that sparked his interest. Now, with a Penta MX camera of his own and a larger variety of potential shots, Andrew continues his love of photography in his free time.
“I like the idea of recording a moment in time,” Watkins said.
The casual photography started when Watkins was eight-years-old, and by the time he reached high school his time spent playing with old cameras had paid off: he was able to teach himself how to take real photos. Watkins was never interested in creating an artificial scene or setting up shoots of his own, but, instead, has always found joy in taking pictures of the elements of nature.
“I’m more drawn to shoot things that accrue naturally,” Watkins said.
In the summer, when there are less time constraints, Andrew is able to go out about once a week to photograph with his close friends. Since their group shoots are predominantly spontaneous, their choice of location is usually done at random. Often he visits downtown or the Crossroads, areas he and his friends know well, to see if they can find a new angle somewhere, or photograph something they’ve never noticed. Their common interest in photography is driven by the idea of documenting something in a way that it’s never been seen before.
“We’ll shoot anything: nature, people in nature—sometimes candids of strangers,” Watkins said.
After shoots, Watkins often uploads his pictures onto Flickr, an image hosting website that allows photographers and artists to share and critique each other’s work.
To get his photos online, Andrew has to scan the pictures and load them to his computer beforehand, since he prefers film photography to digital. Film means more to Watkins because, with digital, the entire process of developing photos is eliminated.
“Digital isn’t nearly as rewarding without the process of developing it yourself,” Watkins said.
Unlike digitally taken images, film leaves some mystery as to what the photos will actually end up looking like. Watkins also loves the anticipation of waiting to see how his pictures have turned out.
“The surprise you get after developing the roll of film is the best part, since you never know what you have beforehand,” Watkins said. “If you’re interested in photography, film is definitely something you should try before going straight to digital.”
Even though Watkins lacks the time to be completely devoted to photography alone, shooting with be a life long hobby driven not only by a love for it but also the satisfaction he feels seeing his finished photos.
While the idea of photography has always interested him, it wasn’t until this past year that senior Charles Hotchkiss made a hobby of it. Inspired by several of his friends, Hotchkiss began shooting on his own, as well as in group shoots.
“I think photography helps to get different perspectives of the world,” Hotchkiss said.
Hotchkiss was drawn to photography when he noticed how it revealed things in ways that had never been seen. He also realized how many different ways one thing can appear from different views. For instance, a building could be shot from a hundred different angles, and each one would look completely different. He also noticed how little things that usually go by unnoticed can be photographed to become a piece of artwork.
“Photography just gives you a lot of insight into the things that you wouldn’t normally recognize,” Hotchkiss said.
Opposed to staging shoots, Hotchkiss prefers to photograph nature and architecture. He enjoys the challenge of finding a new fresh angle to something that people see every day. Not only is photography a fun challenge, it is also an easy way for Hotchkiss to relax.
Once Hotchkiss captures his shots after a day of taking photos, it’s easy to share his photos with everyone through Flickr.
“Flickr is really helpful because people can see your photos and tell you what you could do better or what you’ve done right already,” Hotchkiss said.
Seeing other peoples works and reading the critiques off of Flickr also helps Hotchkiss to get more ideas of what possible things to shoot. Having photography as just a hobby makes it easier for Hotchkiss; he can go out with an idea of what to shoot or new angles to try, and then just lose himself in the shoot and relax.
Because Hotchkiss feels that photography has such a relaxing aura around it, he keeps his shooting completely separate from his school work. For Hotchkiss, photography is and always will be just a hobby and once it starts being part of school, its starts to seem less like a free time activity, and more like work.
“I like to think of it as just my personal thing that I do in my personal time because I enjoy it,” Hotchkiss said.
Sophomore Laura Metz was introduced to photography at a young age. It started with her dad, Brian Metz, who had a passion for photography.
“He was always taking pictures, and the pictures turned out so cool that I wanted to try,” Metz said. “Once I got the camera in my hands, I fell in love.”
Her dad then intertwined that passion with his love for his family by taking his family on trips to gorgeous locations for vacation, and his camera was never far away.
The hallway leading to the living room of the Metz house is covered in picturesque scenes from the family’s trips. There’s a photo Laura and her sister Megan standing next to a sea lion cocking it’s head for the camera in the Galapagos Islands. A shot of a sperm whale flipping its tail as it dives into the Pacific in Baja, California hangs next to it.
According to mother Jane Metz, Laura’s dad got the whole family cameras three years ago so they could shoot together during their Spring Break vacation on an Alaskan cruise. Therefore, Laura has her own addition to the collection in their hallway: a portrait of a long plank walkway covered in netting nestled in the midst of Alaskan wildlife.
“My favorite place to shoot by far was the Galapagos,” Laura said. “It was just a gorgeous setting. Since people aren’t very common there, the wildlife isn’t afraid of them and they were always coming up and investigating, which made for some great shots.”
Laura’s preferred style is modeled portraits. Getting photo shoot ides from her daily experiences and surroundings, she then likes to shoot friends and family.
“If I see the light hitting an object or a person in a cool way, I’ll pull out my camera and tell whoever is with me ‘stop so I can get this shot!’” Laura said. “I’ve shot most of my family, but my sister hasn’t let me do her yet. I’ll get her soon.”
Laura’s family and friends have been very supportive; her mom has readily paid for extra classes, and her dad has taught her everything he knows.
“She was really fun to work with,” friend Jessie Burnes, a fellow sophomore, said. “You can tell how much she likes it just by working with her and watching her. She’s very serious about what she does, but at the same time she’s really fun and upbeat when she’s shooting.”
Laura has advanced her love of photography by taking Photo 1, is planning to take Photo 2 next year, and is deciding on which extra classes to take through Johnson County Community College. She is also considering taking classes through a special organization, Nikon Photography Classes, that comes to town every three years.
“My main goal for the future is to get more familiar with the different kinds of cameras, lenses, and other equipment, and I’d also like to get to know my camera a lot better,” Laura said. “I was also recently certified for SCUBA at Padi Scuba, and would be really interested in eventually taking an underwater photography class at their location in Kansas.”
While she is committed to expanding her knowledge on the subject of photography, for now it will still remain just a pastime.
“While I really like it, I would never consider becoming a professional photographer,” Laura said. Although she plans on becoming a dermatologist, she will always make time for her passion.
As many East kids do, junior Anna Dancinger signed up for Photo 1 with the mindset that it would just be another fun elective. Instead, she discovered that this wouldn’t be just another art course to her: it became her new passion.
“I really like how every picture shows a different self expression,” Dancinger said. “I also love that every picture is unique and special to the photographer who took it.”
Dancinger draws inspiration from a variety of sources. Firstly, she gets ideas from projects assigned in her Photo 2 class. She also is also a huge fan of a photographer named Wendy Ewald.
“What I like about her photos is that she takes them of completely ordinary people and situation but makes them look beautiful,” Dancinger said. “For example, she had taken some pictures of these kids, then printed them and let them draw all over them. That way her style and their style were reflected in the picture.”
“I like that these are the most daring portraits,” Dancinger said. “They take pictures of people dressed up and made up in ways you’d never think of trying. I like their really simplistic portraits as well as the ones that are ridiculously abstract. I’m not really a middle ground sort of person.”
She then tries to emulate those photos with her own personal twist.
“I did a shoot with my friends where I teased their hair really crazy and then did their makeup really heavily,” Dancinger said. “It was one of my favorites to shoot, because it was fun and there were a lot of different angles to go with it.”
To expand her knowledge of the subject, Dancinger is taking Photo 3 and AP Studio Art with a focus on photography. She wants to learn about the different lenses, their effects on photos, and how to make natural effects before the processing stage, where you edit effects on the computer and other design programs.
“Currently, I have a long focal lens [eliminate depth] and a fish-eye lens [which looks like the view from inside a fishbowl],” Dancinger said. “My favorite one to use is the fish-eye lens . I like to use them because they affect the picture before it’s processed on the computer.”
When her friends aren’t available to shoot, Dancinger turns to her most loyal models: her sisters.
“I use my two sisters, Audrey  and Kate , on most of my shoots,” Dancinger said. “My favorite part of shooting is being able to find the perfect poses and finding the best way to use the natural light for the shot.
Dancinger is serious about her photography, and wants to pursue it in college. However, if it doesn’t work out, she says said it wouldn’t be that big of a setback.
“Even if I couldn’t go professional, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to me,” Dancinger said. “I’d still continue it as a hobby.”