A purple mist hovers over San Francisco Bay. Early morning light glows upon the sheer face of El Capitan. A traceur, a practitioner of parkour, arches his back in the midair during a back handspring. These are some of the ephemeral moments captured on Amelia Levine’s Canon EOS Rebel while she spent 12 days participating in the National Geographic Student Expeditions in Yosemite and San Francisco.
In 2007, an anonymous donor created an endowment, the Pat Rosoff Fellowship for Media Arts, intended to reinforce and enhance the creative growth of a Kingswood Oxford student or faculty member. These funds have been earmarked for students who, while they demonstrate marked ability in the visual arts, would most greatly benefit from concentrated focus in studio art beyond the limitations of the KO classroom. It sets aside money to enable pre-college summer work or other opportunities for personal and artistic growth that might serve to embolden and give confidence to a student.
Greg Scranton, KO’s photography teacher said of Amelia, “She has worked tirelessly on becoming a better photographer over the past two years, from her first day in Photo I to her final day in Photo II. Not only has Amelia become a technically proficient photographer, but she has also developed her own unique aesthetic, which is impressive for a young photographer to achieve at this early stage in her career. It's fitting that Amelia chose to enroll in a National Geographic program as I can certainly see her braving the elements to get the shot as a Nat Geo photographer herself one day.”
As a child, Levine was the designated documentarian, snapping photos of the family while on vacation. Admittedly, she was a “point and click” photographer. "After taking Mr. Scranton’s class, I learned the technical aspects of photography like shutter speed, aperture, and composition. I just kept learning more and more until I became comfortable with shooting in a manual mode,” Levine said.
In order to attend the National Geographic workshop, Levine submitted an application, a portfolio of her work and her rationale for participating in the program. After her acceptance into the program, Levine headed to San Francisco with 16 other students from the U.S., China, and Brazil where they were led in the fine points of photography by National Geographic photographer Ronan Donovan and Christian Murillo. “Everyone was super supportive of each other’s work. We would go back to the hotel rooms and edit our photos. The kids would offer each other advice like “That’s super cool. You could try doing this effect,” she said.
In order to achieve the best shots, the group woke up “delirious” at 4:00 a.m. to take sunrise photos in San Francisco. But, the city’s mercurial weather on some days i.e. fog challenged the students to achieve the desired effect. Instead, some of the photos are moody and dramatic. Other photos from San Francisco are interesting architectural shots and portraits. Levine’s black and white study of man in the shadows is particularly evocative. “I never thought I was good at portraiture, but after this shot, I realized that it was pretty good,” she said.
However, when the photographers arrived at Yosemite for their six-day sojourn, the sunrise shone brightly, making their 2:45 a.m. wake up call well worth it. Levine prefers landscape and nature shots, and Yosemite delivered. Her photos of the mountain ranges, sunrises and sunsets are a nod to the renown photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams.
“This trip refined my knowledge. Now I know which setting complements each other and which shutter speed works with which ISO. I learned how to achieve a better photo by fixing my settings before the shot. I just kept working on each shot, kept trying, fixing my settings and retaking it,” she said.
Locally, you’ll find Levine in nature taking a hike at Sleeping Giant or Heublein with her camera. “It's really peaceful and relaxing for me. You work hard but to get that view at the end of the day, it’s all worth it,” she said.