Lebanon Valley College President’s Report

Over 20 years ago I did my first photo shoot for Lebanon Valley College. In the time since I’ve probably made more photographs for LVC than any other client. With the addition of Bishop Library, the incredible Arnold Sports Center, the Peace Garden and the current Mund College Center expansion I’ve watched the campus grow more beautiful over the years. With the appointment of a new president it’s an honor now to have photographed for Lebanon Valley College under four administrations.

This year’s president’s report focuses on LVC’s interdisciplinary programs, and gave me another opportunity to breathe in the vitality of a terrific educational institution, and to “exhale” a few worthy images in return. One of my primary jobs this time also was to make a portrait of the new president, Dr. Lewis E. Thayne.

Dr. Thayne is a man with many demands on his time. While waiting to meet with him I noticed a constant flow of people into his office suite hoping for a moment with him – which made me even more aware of the importance of making our brief time together productive as possible.

An aside on coherent lighting

I’ll have more to say on the topic of coherent lighting in another post. But this assignment illustrated the need for understanding how light behaves (or doesn’t) and the limitations of digital cameras. Some digital shooters believe if they can master all the functions of their DSLR camera they can make any kind of photo well. Sadly this is not so. In portraiture and many other kinds of photography the quality and direction of light are equally important as its color, or white balance. These are key components of what I call coherent lighting, and they apply to all photography: digital, film, still photography and video. (Strictly speaking coherent light means all light waves are in phase, as with laser light – but I’m using layman’s terms here.)

My general college photography now is done now with available light and digital cameras. But there are times when available light is not adequate, and it’s essential to override it in a pleasing, naturalistic manner. A camera’s built-in flash or a shoe-mounted flash can’t do that. In this case, Dr. Thayne’s venerable office provided a mix of daylight through large windows and old fluorescent fixtures overhead. Neither source was appropriate for the kind of portrait we needed.

Fortunately I had anticipated this and had an ample light kit with me. My first priority was to find a spot that offered an appropriate backdrop. After he approved my choice I quickly set up an impromptu studio, adjusted the ratio of main and secondary lights and metered my flash while he was able to continue working. Then I had him move into position for the actual photography without wasting his time.

There was no second guessing anything, and I was grateful to learn later that Dr. Thayne was pleased with the result. Below is the image that was chosen for publication, followed by a sampling of other photos I made around the campus for the report (more can be seen on LVC’s website). As always there were challenges to overcome but most of all we had fun making these. Many kudos to LVC’s editorial staff headed by Tom Hanrahan and to designer Tom Castanzo (Afire Creative Group) for their excellent work in conceiving and making this piece. It’s always a pleasure working with them.


Dr. Lewis E. Thayne, Lebanon Valley College President

The statue of Quittapahilla has served as the backdrop for many photos over the years, and remains a college favorite for good reason. She just rocks!

LVC’s Colloquium Series this year focuses on “Happiness”, bringing together a broad variety of disciplines. Dr. Michael Kitchens teaches the course, and got a little happiness therapy from students for this photo. I also had to create the light you see here – the overhead fluorescents just weren’t up to it.

A truly innovative interdisciplinary program – LVC’s swimming coaches, physical therapy and education departments have combined efforts to research how aquatic exercise impacts childhood development. Team members add splash to a group portrait.

Drs. David Lyons (math) and Scott Walck (physics) analyze a problem with members of LVC’s Mathematical Physics Research Group. This photo was a challenge due to the small window I had to shoot through, having to discreetly light the room for the depth of field we needed and positioning the subjects for visibility, all while maintaining a sense of spontaneity in the image. But we came out with a pretty interesting shot, I think.

The math and computer science programs at LVC are structured to be interdisciplinary. Dr. Ken Yarnall, chair and associate professor of mathematics, with two students who are developing a smart phone app.

Another interdisciplinary area where boundaries are disappearing is chemistry and biology. Dr. Walter Patton with students in the chemistry lab

Dr. Courtney Lappas with two students in the biology lab.

Professors from an array of disciplines together publish “The Valley Humanities Review”, an international journal devoted to the best scholarship in their fields. Sometimes I can’t control much of anything about the shot, but have to discreetly catch a working meeting as it happens and try to get every face – this was one of those times.

Drs. Michael Schroeder and Gabriela McEvoy are parallel-teaching courses in Latin American history, literature and language that provide a deeper understanding of Central American history and culture.

Under the direction of music professor and director of music business Jeff Snyder, students have created their own record label – R||:evolution Records. For this photo they wanted to replicate one of their inspirations – despite the wintry conditions.

Professor Jeff Snyder

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