Connor McFadden

Atlanta Photographer & Cinematographer

My First Rodeo

In December 2015 I took a trip with my dad & uncle to Clarksdale, Mississippi to find some blues & brews. Damn, I'm good with wordplay.

At this point in time, I had been a production assistant for about ten months. I desperately wanted to apply what I'd learned in that time so I brought my previously underutilized Sony a6000 camera & Sony E PZ 18-105 f/4 lens. In my opinion, not a bad combo if you want to get into photography.

I felt like this was my first trip as a "serious photographer". Yeah.... please bear in mind that this was a full year and a half ago. While I am a little embarrassed by some of these shots compared to more recent stuff, it helps that Clarksdale is a very unique looking place.

It's fun looking back at the photos. When I see them I'm immediately transported back to that time & place. Not just being in Clarksdale, but being at a point in time where I knew barely any fundamentals of lighting, framing, composition. Just winging it, & relying purely on instinct. Of course, I say now as if anything's changed. Debatable.

I think some of these shots turned out alright despite my ineptitude. The Shack Up Inn where we stayed is so visually distinctive, so vibrant, so unlike anywhere else I've stayed, that it does most of the work. The over-saturation of the furniture juxtaposed with the worn, aged look of the architecture is immediately striking. For me, only truly cringeworthy photo in here is the last one, a grossly underexposed photo of the stars. Man... I thought I could get away with ISO 800 if I shot raw. I thought wrong.

Good lesson to learn on a personal project instead of a professional shoot.

A year later I dug up some of those photos and took another stab at coloring them in Adobe. I noticed that the biggest change in my editing style is that instead of generally upping the saturation & contrast in each photo, I tried to see what I could strip away. What would happen if I took some colors & shades out, to emphasize whatever was left? The result is a lot of hybrid images, with some parts in color and some in black & white. That's the phase I was going through then.

I would love to return to Clarksdale and have another crack at the scenery. Apply everything that I have learned since the first trip. Until then, I'll just keep fixing my rookie mistakes in Lightroom! We'll see what the 2nd anniversary photos look like.

What was your first photography project? Leave a comment and share your story!