Oberlin Blogs

A Walk in the Woods

November 17, 2008

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

Oberlin in mid-fall is a confusing place. It bounces between pleasant sunshine and blustery sleet for the first few weeks of November, and then just stays cold until mid-April. I love the cold grey days where it's not sure if it's going to precipitate or not. I'm even fine being outside if the weather's schizophrenic like that, but only if I know I'm headed somewhere warm.

With that said, I'm going to tell you a story about a day that wasn't like this at all. It was a warm 70 degrees, somewhat reminiscent of my (not so recently) new home in Hawaii. I was, in fact, talking to my mom (1pm here, 8am there) as I walked in this lovely weather toward the Arb for my photography course's outdoor excursion.

One of the best things about pleasant weather in Oberlin is that, due to its non-existence for the majority of months while we're on campus, students and teachers alike take full advantage of warm, sunny days. Students study and eat in Wilder Bowl; professors will occasionally hold class outside, especially those creative humanities classes. So Pipo's decision to hold a lighting instruction session, photo shoot and camera meander in the Arb was, dare I say it, brilliant.

The Arb is located south of the college; there are a few ways to get there that I honestly can't recall. The last time I had been to the Arb was in a huge amoeba of orienting frosh two years ago, and of course, we got lost, exited a different way than we had entered, and were terrified of the possibility of bears. (There aren't bears, I promise. I don't know why someone would scare a group of poor freshmen like that. I wouldn't do that.) This time, I wisely looked up walking directions on Google Maps before departing, and luckily ended up exactly where I needed to be, right on time.

Our class collected on the stone structure next to the water tower for some tips on how to light people in shaded areas, which ended with a short demonstration photographing Cubby.

Students standing on a concrete structure

Student getting her picture taken

Student in front of a red wall

And then we were let loose to wander in the beautiful autumn light and photograph what our little hearts desired (and maybe work on our individual photography projects on persona) while Pipo and Natalia set up a staged shoot on a grassy knoll.

Student posing for a photo in front of trees wearing a white dress and holding flowers

Student wearing a wedding dress in front of tree

Student posing for a photo wearing a wedding dress and holding flowers, surrounded by pink and green smoke

Natalia hadn't had a quinceanera birthday party when she turned 15 because she didn't feel the right way about it. In retrospect, I felt similarly about my own religious rite-of-passage, that just seemed like tradition rather than meaningful. But for this project, the persona project, she wanted to become the quinceanera girl. And in the mystical beauty of the Arb, she finally felt right and complete.

It was an invigorating day.

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