Shifting Perception by Anthony Carpinelli

                Cameras by their nature are capable of experiencing a more expansive light spectrum than most people realize. However, we limit their potential to reflect what our brains process and accept as what our eyes “see.” This has been a fascinating topic to me for a while now on a personal level, as well as very recently on a professional photography level.

                All of the sense are such a fascinating topic to me, as a photographer. Vision, being key to the work I create and the enjoyment of people who view my work, is my most important. I think that vision is tied a lot to my self-identity for this reason. You as the reader may find one resonate with you much stronger. Taste maybe? Sound? I’ve been working with two of my closest friends on a fundraiser to support the Batten Disease Support and Research Association (BDSRA) in June here in Portland. Tickets are available here. In short Batten disease is a rare and complicated illness that strikes first the five senses. I’m sure many of us can’t imagine what it would be like to function without one of our five, let alone losing all. I don't really do the description justice, so check out the Batten Foundation (BDSRA) website here.

                In my personal journey, I’ve been exploring the notion of turning my own per-conceived notions about “reality” as experiences through the senses on its head. Despite all our best efforts, the brain remains the middle man and keeps the experience of the senses subjective. The one place I thought I was safe was with photography. This is something I’ve done for over a decade now, and clearly in the digital age there is no way a camera was going to teach me anything new about the world. Photoshop doesn’t count. The universe does love to prove me wrong and make a point….

                My aforementioned friends gave me one of their cameras for my collection. It’s a Canon 5D. I have one of these already, I use it as my back up, or secondary camera. It was the camera I got some of my best and first shots of Oregon with. From the outside, the two are almost identical. Mine has seen a bit more of an "adventure," to put it nicely. By that I mean mine has battle scars. However, on the inside they couldn’t be more different. Scott had the one he gave me converted to register infrared. Basically, it sees an entirely different spectrum of light.

                These two cameras, which were identical when they rolled off the Canon assembly line as twins, have had very different paths in life. If they were able to communicate with each other, would they even realize that they are seeing the entire world differently? Would they argue over who has the "true" view of the world? Again, the camera body is the same, they use the same lenses, they’re the same age, etc. The only thing that changed is that one piece, that one sensor and it makes such a difference! It is hard to imagine that there are any similarities between them.

                This creates an interesting shift in perspective when I try using the new camera. My brain sees the outer shell, and the lenses I know so well and doesn’t register a difference. My sense of touch fires when I hold the camera, and muscle memory sends my fingers where they need to go on the camera body, on the focus and zoom rings, and again everything feels the same. My photo instincts kick in with no variations and as the camera comes near my face, my sense of smell fires because cameras do have a distinct smell, a smell of plastic but not quite. Again, nothing to this point is different from my non-IR cameras so life continues as ever.

               Once I get to the viewfinder though, things are a little different because the auto-focus system (what you see when you look at the little viewfinder) has a different grid pattern. My brain compensates though, and life goes on as usual. It is only in post-production, or looking at the back of the camera that I realize this is a whole new story yet to be written. A story based on a world that I am only taking my first baby-steps in. I accept and acknowledge that these first steps will be terrible. There will be fumbling and frustration for the first 100,000 hours in this world. I will love every second of this exploration though, and in many ways it will be sadder for me when I master this new world.

 

by Anthony Carpinelli

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be.”

       Douglas Adams – The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

This is the start of my third year on the West Coast. This also marks my return home from my second annual trip to Nepal. I completed 500 hours of yoga teacher training, and I started teaching yoga about nine months ago. These are all statements that I never thought would come out of my mouth, or even into my writing except maybe in the form of fiction.

While those are all huge milestones for me, the Nepal trips are front and center in my mind and heart. The question I’ve heard most since I got back this year has been, “How does it compare to last year?” And honestly, I don’t know how to even begin to try and make those comparisons. My answer in short is always that “It’s just different.” In my experience, that trip every year gives me what I need at that time in my life, and what I need is constantly changing.

The first year, I didn’t question my reasons for going very hard. I saw a flier that welcomed “photographers, adventurers, and lovers of food,” among other things, and said “I’m those things!” I’m in. How could I not be in? How often do you get a chance to go to Nepal after all? I had intended to spend most of that trip getting unique photos that would make my career as a photographer and allow me to change my life! Well, part of that was right. I ended up losing all my largest and spare memory cards for my camera at SEATAC, and of course my pro camera gear takes special cards that you can’t get everywhere. I continued to fight fate and decided I could still shoot the entire trip, just back up and empty those cards every night. Well, a power surge the first night ruined my laptop power cord, and again, not easy to replace a 10 year old macbook pro power cord in the US, let alone Kathmandu. This was a real turning point for me, the time I learned to stop fighting the universe and instead start to listen.

This year, I returned once again with the intention of photographing. This was an entirely different experience for me. The photos from this trip were some of the best of my 10+ year career. What’s even better is that it felt entirely in line with my dharma and they mostly came naturally to me. Let me again stress that it FELT natural. One of my closest friends pointed out to me recently that she can remember a time since I came to Portland, that the words “I felt….” Would never have left my mouth in any context. I’ve found much deeper connections to myself, to who I am and who I have yet to grow into, but again I find those feelings are hard, if not impossible to translate into words. So, I hope my photography example is the expression that resonates.

I originally started to write this article in response to posts written by my fellow travelers trying to pick the top 10 or so things that were the biggest take-aways from our trip. I found that every time I attempted to write it out, I couldn’t do justice. That was when I truly started to wake up to the fact that I just can’t express it in those terms.

It was not that long ago that I didn’t know the concept of being on a path at all, let alone believe such a thing was possible. And here I sit 4,000 miles away from the only life I thought I’d ever know. I saw my reflection today when I walked up to unlock the doors to the studio, and for maybe the first time I didn’t see myself as the boy who came from Pittsburgh, but I saw the adventurer I always thought I was meant to be but would never know. Maybe it’s because I didn’t shave today, who knows. But that created a deep sensation in me that I wouldn’t have been capable of letting myself feel 18 months ago.  

Cancun - Day 3 (Wedding Day) by Anthony Carpinelli

I doubt there have been many weddings ever that were as beautiful as this one was. It was simple, fun, and involved a foreign beach.

I think a lot of weddings are done for pomp and circumstance as well as a cash grab for everyone who can make it one. Myself included. It was satisfying to see a wedding being about love. Not just love between two people, but their families and friends as well. That's what the core of all weddings should be.

Cancun - Day 1 by Anthony Carpinelli

I got hired to shoot a destination wedding outside Cancun, Mexcio. I travel way to much sometimes, I feel. The top of the first world problems pantheon.

I think that the move to Portland has been good for me on a personal level. I've grown and flourished here in under a year. I stayed the night at a buddy's house so we could leave later (if you can consider 5 am later) and I even got home cooked breakfast on the way, and got taken to the airport in a Corvette. I'm not trying to brag, just trying to show it's not what I'm used to. I'm used to trying to do everything myself.

The best part in my opinion about having help is that I find it takes a lot of the anxiety of travel out of the equation for me. I don't know if it's the camera gear or what, but I'm always paranoid about having time to get through TSA, so I show up at the airport 3 hours early like a good little boy, clear TSA in 14 minutes flat and sit around a closed airport for another 2 hours and 46 minutes before I'm the last person to board the plane.

Regardless, I've seen a lot of airports in this world, and I'm always grateful to have PDX as my home base. I had just enough time to catch my layover in Dallas (which sucks because they have a yoga studio in Dallas Fort-Worth now?).

Culture shock is always a thing though. I spent a bit of time in the Cancun airport trying to be sold into a time share and then waiting almost 3 hours for the taxi I reserved. From an American perspective, this is horrible. However, when you aren't in America you can't expect other people to appease you. You should just bring extra food.