Friends from Traverse City take on photography class as a pair

Rachel Raniszewski and Riley Farmer of Traverse City, Mich. are in different grades at different schools, but their friendship of five months is bolstered by something they have in common: a passion for photography. Raniszewski, an eighth grader at Traverse City East, and Farmer, a freshman at Traverse City Central, became friends by sitting together on the bus this school year.

“I don’t know what we talked about,” Raniszewski said. “I was kind of like half asleep, so I don’t really remember.”

Now, they are both enrolled in Shoot Like a Pro and room together at MIPA. The girls compliment each other profusely on their photography and personality traits, which always results in four blushing cheeks. Raniszewski described Farmer and herself as “kind of just stupid in general.”

Photo by Maggie Schaller

While on assignment at the Ingham County Fair, Riley Farmer and Rachel Raniszewski photograph pigs running in a pen. “It’s just really fun to have someone in a class with you so you can walk with them and talk to them and ask them questions about basically anything,” Raniszewski said of being at camp with Farmer.

“It’s really fun to be together, like all the time, and then just to mess around and obviously to have someone to keep you company,” Farmer said.

Both girls are photographers for their schools’ yearbooks, but their interest in photography originated at different points in their lives. Farmer is somewhat new to photography. She said she was always intrigued by certain pictures, but her involvement began once she bought a camera last summer. Since then, she has taken several photography classes to get a grasp on her camera’s capabilities and feels that her skills have improved profoundly.

“It’s really cool to look back to when you started and you didn’t know anything,” Farmer said. “Then [looking at] where you are now and the pictures you’ve taken, it’s really cool.”

Raniszewski, on the other hand, has been surrounded by a love for photography for her whole life.

“I’ve been taking pictures since I was 6, with my dad, and we have our own little photography business, and it’s just really fun,” Raniszewski said. “My dad’s been taking pictures for 20 plus years, so he kind of has steered me toward the direction of yearbook, and I’m the main photographer for my yearbook staff.”

Raniszewski and Farmer both visit different areas around Lake Michigan over the summer, where they said they seize the opportunity to take scenic pictures. Raniszewski goes camping with her family in Ludington and said she enjoys taking pictures of ferries at sunset. When Farmer visits her cousins in Charelvoix, she has a favorite lighthouse to shoot from the pier. The girls say they enjoy the sense of independence they feel when taking memorable pictures, particularly at these locations. Over the years, as their photography skills have developed, they said they’ve appreciated the improvement that they notice in their technique and understanding.

“It’s a good feeling that you know more about photography so that you can teach other people about it,” Raniszewski said. “If they have a question, you can answer if you know it, and it’s just nice to have the knowledge so you know what to do when you’re in a bad situation, to get that good picture.”

Different aspects of photography are admired by the girls. Raniszewski said she loves the chance to capture common locations in unique and eye-catching perspectives. Farmer said she “just [likes] the finished product.”

So far at MIPA, the girls have learned techniques for manual shooting from instructors Ike Lea and Mike Caterina. On Monday night, their class traveled to the fair to document the event as professional journalists would. They asked permission to photograph their subjects and conducted interviews to include in their captions. On Tuesday, they practiced shooting sports by taking a field trip to a local basketball game.

Farmer said she is most looking forward to “learning a lot more” about her camera and photo composition. Raniszewski said her focus is on gaining a new perspective when taking pictures, and she is also looking forward to meeting new friends at camp. She said her friendship with Farmer has also helped to create a sense of community in Shoot Like a Pro.

“It’s good to know that you’re not the only one that messes up like that [sometimes],” Raniszewski said.

Raniszewski and Farmer have spent their free time by going to the Dairy Store and bonding over their shared admiration of photography and One Direction. They have plans to take more pictures and order some late-night cookies from Insomnia.

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