Shelli Cammenga’s Top Photos of 2013

Since her freshman year, Shelli Cammanga, senior, has been working as Providence’s photographer at school events, etc. The community will truly miss seeing her carrying her precious “Nikki” around and looking through her thousands of pictures on Facebook, but she graciously put together her favorite photos  for you all to enjoy. 

Picking the top ten photos of the past four years is a momentous task for a photographer who is overly attached to her work. With over 109, 250 pictures from over the past few years is daunting. Then one must add into consideration the wide range of criteria for what “top ten” may mean–composition, personal attachment, the best representatives of said years, etc. After sifting through the archives on the terabyte external hard drive that I had to buy to store them because my computer literally ran out of memory (it would no longer let me create word documents), I have settled on the following ten.


The first photo is from freshman year. It was the picture that allowed me the opportunity to be campus photographer, as it was noticed by the PR department and used on many publications. It was taken during my first camping trip on a beach, a foreign concept to a Michigander! I like this capture because it filled the goal I had for it: the focal point is clearly the Ebenezer we built in the bottom left quadrant, and it effectively draws the eyes before the vivid line of the ocean and clouds ease the attention to notice the lounging college students. Good times!

The second photo is from sophomore year. A common sight to me now, the vivid colors enlivened me the first time I ever stepped foot in Olvera street in downtown Los Angeles. The bright repetition and detail of the guitars intrigued me and I wanted to fill the shot with them so they would feel as all encompassing to the frame as they did to me then.

The third photo is from the Huntington gardens. I curse the man who is bending over to tie his shoe. How dare he get into such an interesting shot – the way the light filtered through the bamboo canopy contrasted with the intense darkness on the left and the strong line of thick bamboo on the right leading the eye along the ground to the “light at the end of the tunnel.” The bane of the photographer – being so caught up in composition you fail to notice the obvious.

The fourth photo was taken after a storm. I was walking to dinner when I saw the droplets still on the trees and I ran back inside for Nikki (my camera). With fine details like this, dinner can wait! Autumn colors have always been a fixation of mine, so to see those hues with the palm trees in the background was too good to miss. I will never regret being late for that dinner. Forget smelling roses – take time to photograph the raindrops!

Picture number five is totally owned by the sky. As a photographer, I think sky shots are cheating because God’s art is way better than mine. I can generally point my camera that direction and get something good, due to no fault of mine, as could anyone else lucky enough to see a cloud or sunset. Still, this particular shot is one of my favorites because of the student in it giving it perspective. You can almost hear Imagine Dragons’ “On Top of the World” playing in the background. But it was so silent when I took the picture, I did want to capture some of that vast emptiness that made me feel so full inside.

Number six was from the Mexico trip. The repetition of the strange mushroom-like umbrellas at the resort was so interesting as we got the perspective from the pier. I was SO glad to get both the ocean and the vibrant colors in this shot as well, as often the meager span of the camera fails to encompass the actual scene in a situation like this. The interaction of dark and light and the line of the water is also fantastic for pushing the eye to the balanced focal points.

Apple picking! This seventh photo was from my birthday trip senior year and was a huge blessing to me – I needed a day off. I did actually take the time to pick a few apples, but the curse of a photographer is seeing good shots everywhere you turn. I looked up to reach for one of these beauties and saw this… to get the different levels, the vibrant colors, the dark line of the branches, the lace-like leaves all in one shot without focusing on just one little apple was more than I thought I could ask, but this one was an answer to prayer. For whatever reason, I love this shot.

The eighth photo may not be the best composition wise, but it was a growing experience for me as I was instructed how to work with the otherwise impossibly low lighting and lengthen the exposure to let the stars shine through. The warm glow of the farmhouse, the presence of my fellow science trip students on the road, and the line of the mountains are added bonuses to the pinpoints of light I was overjoyed to eke out of the sky.

The globe! The globe! All will now recognize the Providence icon in picture number nine. This photo was taken my freshman year at the Reformation Carnival, a true blast from the past. It is a significant beginning and end marker for my time here at Providence. The reflection of the pumpkins in the globe enchanted me, as did the contrast of dark and light on its surface – it always has. I appreciated the curving line the fountain provided for itself, it keeps the composition cohesive. It is a worthy sculpture!

Last but not least, number ten, Los Angeles. Taken in a moment of silence and wonder early this semester from the rail of Griffith Observatory, I feel this captures the sprawling promise of the city. There is darkness, there is light, there are beautiful colors, there are stark lines, but overall it has a soft glow. I have come to love this city, and to have an overall view of the familiar streets was truly an emotional moment realizing that I was nearing the end of my career. It was a milestone photo for me.


These may not be the very best of the photos I have taken, but they are ten that stood out quickly to me and remind me strongly of my process of taking them. I mentioned after the apple picking shot that there was prayer involved and I was not being sarcastic. There is earnest prayer behind each of these photos. God’s world is so beautiful, and his people are so precious. As strange as it sounds, to be charged with the ability to effectively show that to others in ways they may not see it themselves can feel like a weight from time to time.

For the last four years, this work has been my calling. Though my tendency to miss out on personal interaction because I am looking through a lens can be unhealthy, in moderation I truly see capturing the world this way as a gift, and an act of worship. Like the first photo, looking through the moment I captured brought back floods of memories and new realization of God’s faithfulness through the Ebenezers they have become to me. Generally when I take a photo, it is a response of joy and gratitude after being blown away by some element of the scene God allowed me to experience. Photography can truly be an act of worship. Thank you all for giving me a chance to share my photos these last few years – they truly come from the heart.