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McDaniel College students get acquainted with Westminster through the camera lens

Jan term students at McDaniel College explore Westminster through digital photography.

McDaniel College students got to know their surroundings a bit better through their camera lenses as the Modern Photography class took a photo “field trip” to downtown Westminster.

The campus is busier this month than in previous years thanks to a new requirement that freshmen take a “My Design” course over the college’s January term — although the 14 students in Modern Photography were mostly upperclassmen.

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The photo tour on Thursday was a chance to collect photos for their final cumulative portfolio for the course.

When instructor Walter Calahan was a college student, film was expensive, and he wishes he could have documented the moments and fashions of the time. As a young person, it felt like things would stay the same way forever.

“What’s commonplace now really becomes a slice of history,” he said.

The final assignment requires students to take a minimum of 150 photos over three days. And Callahan will be checking the timestamps.

McDaniel College junior Alex Thompson of Westminster, gets some pointers from instructor Walter Calahan as their Jan term Modern Photography class takes a photo walk through downtown Westminster Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020.
McDaniel College junior Alex Thompson of Westminster, gets some pointers from instructor Walter Calahan as their Jan term Modern Photography class takes a photo walk through downtown Westminster Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Many don’t realize how much digital photography is computer science, he said. Students in his classes learn, sometimes through error, how to organize the digital assets they create.

Do fun things and different things, but take your camera with you, he told the students. “Give yourself plenty of opportunity for success by continuing to shoot what you’re interested in. Remember, point of view is about who you are. It’s about your passion."

He said, “With your unique passion for viewing life, I want you to go out on this walking field trip and ask yourself, ‘What is quirky? What is interesting? What do you like? What do you hate about this whole Carroll experience?’ Challenge yourself to make a personal statement through photographs.”

McDaniel College senior Carolyn Cox, of Taneytown, frames a photo along West Main Street as she joins her Jan Term Modern Photography class for a photo walk through downtown Westminster Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020.
McDaniel College senior Carolyn Cox, of Taneytown, frames a photo along West Main Street as she joins her Jan Term Modern Photography class for a photo walk through downtown Westminster Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

For Carolyn Cox, a senior, this was her first foray into a college photography class, though she had taken one in high school. Studying studio art and business, she had some prior experience working with color and light and composition.

But learning the mechanical skills with the camera and the quick thinking required to capture a shot were the biggest challenges for her.

Calahan said that’s one of the reasons he takes his students outside to capture images, so that they have to consider the changing light and challenge their spacial thinking skills.

He compared taking a photograph to standing on one leg, rubbing your head, patting your stomach and “doing Euclidean geometry."

Senior Andrew Gottfried, a cinema major, said he was taking the class to “try to get more understanding of composition and different zoom styles” as he embarks on his capstone project, a 30-minute film that he has to write, produce and shoot.

One of the earlier projects in the term was shooting a subject mid-motion, he said, and it was difficult to find a subject.

Along the route, students stopped to photograph interesting corners of buildings; a cat in a window; holiday lights; moss on the brick sidewalks.

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As the class passed by Westminster New & Used Furniture, just before the intersection with Md. 27, the shop’s owner welcomed the group in and let them take photos of the collectibles inside while taking a break from the cold for a few minutes. Later, as they passed by JeannieBird Baking Company, several stopped for a coffee or pastry.

Junior Quyen Nguyen said learning to use her camera — newly bought — was also the challenge for her.

At first thought, Callahan might get annoyed with all of her questions, but he never did, she said. “Don’t worry, you’ll get it,” he told her.

Walking down Main Street on her photo tour, she said it reminded her a little of Charles Street in Baltimore, where she’ll return after the January term to celebrate her birthday with her family and finish her portfolio.

The biggest surprise of the day for Nguyen, she said, was just how friendly everyone was in Westminster to the group of photographers.

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