This featured article was written by a Student Journalist Program participant and was reviewed by mentors from The Washington Post prior to publishing.
Some say finding out how to begin a journey into photography is hard – especially with so many formats, mediums and styles.
Arthur Ransome, a 47-year-old black and white photographer, said the answer is: “Join a camera club. Seriously.”
Ransome, who moved to Baltimore in 2005 from Puerto Rico, said the first thing he did was “seek out a camera club.”
Camera clubs can be a home for people of all skill levels –whether they are taking shots with their cell phone or featuring their work in the Smithsonian. A club is a community where they can come together and learn from each other.
The Gaithersburg Camera Club has been an area community for local photographers for over 25 years. The group currently has more than 120 members.
“The web is filled with resources but if you want to learn how to do this,” said 66-year-old Ed Palaszynski, president of the club. “You just have to go out and do it.”
Palaszynski’s 32-year-old daughter is an artist. He said because of photography, he’s even noticed that the dialogue between him and his daughter has changed.
“It really is an interesting progression … Now rather than talking daughter-and-father, we’re talking as peers, which is kind of cool,” said Palaszynski, who lives in Clarksburg.
At a group meeting last month, Ransome, a member of the Baltimore Camera Club, talked about his own journey in photography. He gave a brief overview of the principles he follows and explained how photography expanded the bounds by which he expresses himself.
“I didn’t start photography until fairly late in my life,” said Ransome, who was 36 when he picked up a camera, in an interview after the meeting.
In 2002, Ransome said photography began for him as a hobby while living in Puerto Rico. His day job as an asset manager for Enron was very intense – seven days a week – and needed an outlet.
“If not I was just going to go crazy,” he said.
Ransome said he soon fell in love with scuba diving and made frequent trips to Rincón in the northwestern coast of the island. At some, he decided to invest in a cheap underwater camera to show friends and family the amazing creatures he saw underwater and could not describe with words.
“Underwater photography was my realization that I had the opportunity to express what you are seeing and what you are feeling as well,” he said.
Ransome carried his passion for photography beyond the water. After seeing the work of some of his photographer friends, he was inspired to experiment with black and white photography.
The 47-year-old said he began with a mix of film and digital photography and slowly moved more to digital as technology improved.
Ransome enjoys using large format cameras as well. He said he uses a square format because it’s like “you’re actually looking around the photograph.”
“For me is a much more pleasing way of looking at a photograph, as if you’re reading a book,” he added.
Ransome said observing the work of successful photographers such as Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange also helped him grow as a photographer. He said the one thing that made their images successful is a strong visual reference point.
When shooting his own photography, Ransome looks for line, shape, texture and form, which to him makes black and white photography the most suitable style.
“Black and white doesn’t work for everybody,” he said. “For me it works because what I look for in photographs is lines, shape, form, texture, and tonal relationship. And those are the things that work in black and white photographs because I know that I can use one or more of those elements to add emphasis to the subject. With color, I just felt that the first thing that you look at in a color image is the color. If you see a red barn in the field, you’re focused on that.”
Ransome said another key component of his style is the way he tells a story through photographs. Rather than taking a single standing photograph and looking for the next setting or location, he takes many photographs that have a connection to create a series of images.
“I enjoy standing up and talking, but I think you can only go so far with words,” he said. “I know it’s an old cliché but an image really does speak a thousand words.”