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"I caught my target unaware of my presence"; USC -Visions and Voices


aquamarine 2 / 5  
Nov 14, 2009   #1
I am planning on using this essay for this USC prompt: Tell us about an activity that reflects your vision or voice.
I know it's a little on the long side (720 words!) so I wanted some help with cutting out uneccessary parts and fluff. Also, any feedback on if this effectively conveys me to the adcom, etc. will be very helpful! Thanks in advance! :D

I caught my target unaware of my presence. I shoot. Blackness. Rats, I missed, I chastised myself when the seagull dropped its meal and took flight. I had left the lens cover on.

My passion for photography stems from a mysterious package I found sitting on the kitchen table on my tenth birthday. My trembling fingers kept slipping from the corners of the silver wrapping paper as I tried to contain my excitement. When I finally wrestled the box open, my first camera lay in a cheery crumple of turquoise tissue paper: a chunky Kodak that my mother bought at a discount from Wal-Mart. But the model and price played second fiddle to my excitement over having a new camera to play with. The first experimental shots captured the living room, Mr. Lion (my sister's stuffed bear), and my sneaker. I was amazed and perplexed by the lens. How, I wondered, could this machine see the same things I see with my eyes?

With my Kodak in hand, I set out to satisfy my curiosity. Nature, with its bountiful beauty and picturesque scenes, was my first client. The way the morning sun danced between two honeyed leaves in autumn, the reverent bow of daffodils after a heavy rain, and the sleepy droop of morning glories made their way into my collection. My dad would be watching by my side, encouraging me to think about the ideas I wished to convey or the words I wanted to speak through a photograph.

A change of style accompanied my next camera, a small but bulky Hewlett-Packard. The static still-lifes gave way to proper portraits of people and places. Aware of my love of taking pictures, my dad appointed me "event photographer" of the family. I must admit, though, that I wasn't very skilled initially; unlike nature, where you can take shots from all angles, I had to learn to position the camera to take the most flattering picture of the subject (and deal with grouchy or squirmy subjects, too).

My current camera is a sleek Sony in a girly pink, but ever since my dad purchased his Nikon SLR digital, I have surreptitiously "borrowed" it for my shooting pleasure. However, even the best camera needs to be used correctly. I had mistakenly believed that just pressing the shutter on a fancy camera could automatically create perfect pictures. Wrong. In teaching myself how to use it properly, I started to tinker with the manual settings instead of relying on automatic and developed my own style with practice. My choice of subject switched again, from static objects to dynamic movement. A Parisian pigeon feasting on bread, shoppers bustling and bargaining in a Chinese market, or my own sister swinging in between the shadows of two trees; wherever I went, my camera accompanied.

My dad had taken note of my growing skill, and joked that I should put my pictures on the Internet and become famous. Although it was only an offhand comment, it sparked a new enthusiasm for my hobby; why be content with keeping my pictures to myself when I could share them with the world? I created an account on an artistic community on the web, and began to post my works. After a user was impressed and suggested that I start selling prints, I made my photographs available for purchase. Success rate: 2. However, that hasn't deterred me from pursuing my current project: creating my own website dedicated to photography.

Photography has grown from toying around with a picture-box to become a new way through which I see the world. I contemplate and appreciate those mundane but significant details of life which are often overlooked. Even the wad of gum that your sole occasionally finds on the sidewalk can represent the daily dose of "sticky" trouble life hurls at us. But a photograph can't capture everything. Every possibility lies outside the borders of those familiar photos. I still have much to learn and explore. There will be too many sights, too many experiences, and too many daunting new things that will be thrown my way in the oncoming years. But I will drink it all in with the same feverish excitement, dedication, and fearlessness that photography has taught me. My camera will be my extra set of eyes. And this time, I'll make sure the lens cap is off.
airrudra 1 / 3  
Nov 14, 2009   #2
huh ice but needs work...and be serious and soophisticated (no colloquialism) dont use words like girly
davidson10 1 / 1  
Nov 14, 2009   #3
This is a great essay, although at the begining, you may want to take out the comma after "Rats, I missed" and put a period there. so that it reads..."Rats, I missed. I chastised..."
fink1318 1 / 6  
Nov 14, 2009   #4
720 words is not too long for a USC Essay. The word limit is 500-700 words, and they said its typically one page single spaced on a word document. If it goes a few lines above that I wouldnt worry. If you think there is too much fluff, by all means cut it out, but if you think every sentence in the essay adds to the idea and wont lose the reader, keep it all.
OP aquamarine 2 / 5  
Nov 14, 2009   #5
@davidson:
Thank you for the advice :D

@fink:
does that mean you think there isn't anything that could be cut out? I'm not looking to shorten it, but I do want to get rid of anything unecessary.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Nov 15, 2009   #6
Excellent start! Watch out for changing tenses, though:
I catch my target unaware of my presence. I shoot. Blackness. Rats, I chastised myself when the seagull drops its meal and took flight. I have left the lens cover on .----> how about all present tense like this?

My dad had taken note of my growing skill, and he joked that I should put my pictures on the Internet and become famous.
or:
My dad had taken note of my growing skill and joked that I should put my pictures on the Internet and become famous.
...whichever way you prefer...

Great beginning and ending, great descriptions, I love it. I think you are smart to cut out all possible fluff, but your writing has little fluff. It is looking good!
fink1318 1 / 6  
Nov 17, 2009   #7
@fink:does that mean you think there isn't anything that could be cut out? I'm not looking to shorten it, but I do want to get rid of anything unecessary.

Im sure there are parts that could be considered fluff, but I personally did not notice anything.

I catch my target unaware of my presence. I shoot. Blackness. Rats, I chastised myself when the seagull drops its meal and took flight . I have left the lens cover on.----> how about all present tense like this?

Im not sure that sentence makes a whole lot of sense either.

Its a very confusing sentence but I am not sure how to reword it so that it has tense agreement but does not compromise the great choice of words. If I were you, I would take that sentence to an English teacher or several and see what they can do to make it clearer.
Vulpix - / 71  
Nov 17, 2009   #8
"Rats, I chastised myself when the seagull drops its meal and took flight. I have left the lens cover on."
In response to the comments on the sentence above, I believe the issue is that it is not, in fact, in present tense like the sentence preceding it. To maintain consistency, I would change it to "Rats, I chastise myself, as the seagull drops its meal and takes flight. Once again, I left the lens cover on" or something to that effect.

Overall, though, I agree with EF_Kevin: your verb tenses need to be more consistent throughout.

"The way the morning sun danced between two honeyed leaves in autumn, the reverent bow of daffodils after a heavy rain, and the sleepy droop of morning glories made their way into my collection."

This sentence is beautiful! Definitely my favorite part of the essay. I especially like "the reverent bow of daffodils"- what a lovely turn of phrase!

"My camera will be my extra set of eyes. And this time, I'll make sure the lens cap is off."
I don't know, I feel like the ending is a little cliche- as if you're trying too hard to be funny or clever. But of course, I suppose it's a matter of personal interpretation.

I like this essay a lot- your write very well, with a clear sense of style and humor. You could probably edit it a little more just to finesse some of the phrases and revise some of the verb tenses, but otherwise, I think you have done a really good job.
Rowa 5 / 15  
Nov 18, 2009   #9
wanted to speak through a photograph

this is really good, so I think you should make stand out and not blend in with the other sentences.

The first experimental shots captured the living room, Mr. Lion (my sister's stuffed bear), and my sneaker. I was amazed and perplexed by the lens. How, I wondered, could this machine see the same things I see with my eyes?

you can take this out because I don't see the relation to the previous sentence.
the intro was very exciting, so you have to keep it!

if you are looking to take out stuff, you can reduce some of the imagery...although most of it is really really good. I can really imagine what you are talking about in your essay. I think that it is a little bit too much, so take some out.

Overall I really like your essay, and I think you can relate yourself to photography, how has it shaped you, how your pictures reflect you... :)
OP aquamarine 2 / 5  
Nov 22, 2009   #10
Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed this! I have made the necessary grammatical changes. :D
I was also thinking about using this as my commonapp essay. But I don't know if it reveals enough about me...
If you could please answer this question: what have you learned about me through this essay?


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