I got to do something really cool last week! The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) held a Pixel Party and allowed a couple dozen of us photographers to come in and take photos of the exhibits after hours. A couple frustrations of taking photos in a museum went away as a result: firstly, we didn’t have to deal with the general public walking into our shots. One other photographer walked into the background of my shot, but for the most part, everyone was really attentive to others’ photography. Secondly, we could bring all our gear and not be the weirdos with full camera kits and tripods.
We had access to one exhibit on ancient Egyptian culture, which included all your typical burial items, along with some bits of pottery and carvings found from every day life. Then, I went into the Roman Gladiator exhibit, which, while shiny and fun, didn’t yield my favorite photos. On the upside, it had pieces of the actual Roman Coliseum, which I haven’t been to yet. Finally, there was an Amazonian rainforest section, which was really an anthropological look at the tribes there. Honestly, the lighting at the time didn’t have me expecting to get much out of that exhibit, but the items in it were so colorful that I wound up getting a few that I really do like. Admittedly, another great aspect of the experience was that I didn’t have to pay to get into these exhibits. These are the exhibits you have to pay extra for, even if you’re a member of the museum.
Something I tried to keep in mind was the lighting, setting, and museum-goer’s experience. My sister is studying museology for her master’s in anthropology, so when she visited and we went to this exact museum before, she pointed out things I wouldn’t have noticed, like spotlights and placards and even the general flow of traffic. While it was tempting to just take a bunch of macro shots of ancient Egyptian trinkets, I did find that it was more satisfying to get the first image (above) of the exhibit with items and setting included. One thing I know from my short time employed in a museum is that the space that temporary exhibits tend to wind up in isn’t always all that nice, and I did notice a few rough edges as a result of trying to see the museum as a whole. I wound up having to discard a few images because I just couldn’t stand how a seam in the false wall stood out.
I’ve looked at a few of the other photographers’ work, and it’s definitely inspiring. My natural competitiveness kicks in and I start comparing my work and deciding which I’m better than or what I can aspire to. There wasn’t a lot of talk at the event because people were focused on their art, but I did happen to chat with one guy who wanted to give me advice about white balance. I’d like to have more conversations like those at these events, because I’ve had very few people to talk to in real life about technique. Here’s to learning more.