There are too many days when I wake up and jump right into the news. I open up the paper and get bombarded with very little information that seems joyous. It tends to cloud my judgment and can even sour my day. I’m not sure why I am, like many others, drawn to bad news and tragedy.
What makes this even worse, is the tendency to start to view the world as a bad place full of bad people. I stereotype by geography and profile by association. In turn, I start to interact with the small world parts that I touch with a sense of caution and suspicion.
But I know there is a way to make the day better. From the mouth of a leader known for his focus on non-violence and peace, Mahatma Gandhi, comes very sage advice. His message is clear; “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty”
When I crafted the picture that accompanies this post, I was trying to show the frailty of the argument that I can’t assume to see the whole world when all I have to look at is a part no bigger than a single drop of water. I have to look beyond the dirt and the grime that can cover me in daily news. Every once in a while I need to wash off the grit that obscures my vision and let my eyes see a much cleaner view of what surrounds me.
Dewitt Jones, a well know photographer for National Geographic has promoted a great way to see each day with what he calls, “Celebrate What’s Right with the World.” It’s a fantastic blog and a great way to stay reminded of the good things that make this world a great place to be.
I am going to try and celebrate more good; so I can better handle things when the bad creeps back in.
♦Photo Tip♦ I like to think that creativity is the cornerstone of fun photography. Like not being afraid to laugh out loud, or dance in the rain– photography should be allowed to reflect who you are not who you think others want you to be. I take pictures that I never touch after the shutter snaps and I have pictures that through the magic of Photoshop resemble little of the original. I use photography to express emotion and capture moments in time that need to be preserved. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Before we begin today’s blog discussion…please take a moment and enjoy the picture above. The simple panorama of a forest, filled with a mix of young small trees and slightly larger ones. The ground is a carpet of gentle flowing ferns. Imagine the cool air that surrounds you. Take a deep breath and smell the fresh pine scented air; crisp and clean. The quietness is very loud here and in the distance you can just make out the faint sounds of a small stream journeying down the mountain in search of the sea. This is a great place to contemplate the importance of perspective.
I like to think that I am a pretty intuitive person. I would venture a guess that most of us feel the same way. I am in touch with my surroundings. I understand the plight that my fellow travelers contend with every day and feel I have insight to their trials and tribulations. I am only judgmental in my thoughts and sometimes in my actions because I know so much about what goes on around me…or maybe I don’t.
I know from basic psychology and common sense that there are only two real dynamic influences for my behaviors; the situational factors (or external and environmental) I am responding to, and my disposition (or internal; my own biases or perceptions).
We also know from studies of human nature that how we tend to see the world is reflective of how we see ourselves.
If I am going to be completely honest, I tend to lose perspective in most situations with others and only consider the situation; the external influences. In doing so, I lose the opportunity to consider what might be going on internally to the people and behaviors I so quickly judge. When they act in a manner I don’t like do I ever consider what they might be dealing with instead of just how their behavior affect me? As the old adage goes; perhaps I’m so focused on the trees that I can’t see the whole forest around me.
Like the picture above. Here is another shot taken in the same spot:
That’s me standing in front of a 2500 year old giant redwood tree. Now go back and look at the first picture again. A forest of giant redwoods. Different perspective, different story.
I think about getting cut off in traffic. My thought always jumps to making judgements about the character and motivation of the person in the car or truck that cut me off and it is always focused on how they somehow just did ME wrong and how that makes ME feel. I tend to get angry.
But what if they were distracted because they just received some terrible news? What if they were excited about heading to the airport to pick up their son returning from the war? What if, what if, what if? So many possible reasons for them cutting me off and none of them really had anything to do with ME. Sure, they should be more careful and they should pay better attention, but in the big picture world; I was paying attention and no harm came from the interaction. We could both just move on with our day.
I think it is time to take things from a different perspective and I just bet it will allow me to have a better day.
The dampness of the misty morning settles as dew on the petals of the perfect yellow rose. Sunrise reflects across the garden and blushes red through the clouds of the night storm that swept the hillside. I reflect on the magnificence of the perfect rose as the aroma of their sweet fragrance lifts from the surrounding flowers and fills the air with scented happiness.
With ancestry reaching deep into history, the rose is drenched in symbolism. Once considered for currency and always sought after for their beauty, the yellow rose in particular is held out for happiness and friendship. Perhaps it is the likeness the yellow rose has to the radiating sunshine that can warm a hard heart or pull the chill from a stale, cold room.
This rose was found among many in a special garden dedicated to roses from around the world and rich in tradition. I felt compelled to capture the image of the droplets on the face of the flower just as the sun reached over a nearby tree to bath it in its brilliance.
It made me smile.
I realized as I moved in close to take the picture that many times I walked by this same scene and paid it no attention. I stood tall and walked quickly and missed the chance to take part in the mini drama of happiness playing out so very close to my own life drama of not-so-happy-ness.
There is the old cliché; “always take time to stop and smell the roses,” which I know we all have heard. But how many times do we let everything else take precedent and push the rose smelling to the bottom of the list? For me; it’s often.
This week I am going to try harder to enjoy the small things that happen closer to earth than my mind lets me wander most days. I love to have my head in the clouds, but the yellow roses are calling to my sensibilities and the desperate need to slow down, take a deep breath, and be present in the moment rather than trying so hard to figure out what the next moment might bring.
Stop and smell the happiness and bend down to notice the vision of relaxation.
♦Photo Tip♦ So many times we stand up tall and lean back to take pictures of landscapes and groups and forests and wide open spaces. The pictures are beautiful and the subjects so majestic. But don’t forget to move in close sometimes. Stop looking around and start looking down, way down. Find the small subjects that so many of us miss and take their picture so you can share them with those of us who move too fast through the world to realize that there are small things around us that are just as important and just as beautiful to capture in photo-form.
Every morning we awake and go through the motions of what will be our legacy for the day…until the sun sets and the colorful lights fade, and the moments allotted us for that period once again pass along into eternity.
What we accomplish and who we touch and what we say; these all play together to create other tomorrows for us and for those with whom we have interacted. These contact moments are the lifeless lumps of clay that we give away for others to work with and mold them to create their own life stories. Once hardened in the kiln of memories, and glazed with the colors of love, these timeless moments can be packed away and treasured for as long as we continue to care for them.
Through their power, even in the dark of the coldest night, they give us the opportunity to feel comfort from the warmth of growing friendship and kindred spirits.
So as you travel your life’s journey, always carry the knowledge that you are special. By mere existence, you have the chance to touch another life and spark an ember of warmth that will continue to glow and spread a spirit of joy; always connected. You are now destined to continue to do great things. You are a comforter, a servant, perhaps a caregiver to many, a leader of some…but most importantly…always capable of being a friend.
♦Photo Tip♦ A tripod or a place to brace your camera is essential for early morning or late evening shots. The slower shutter speed will highlight any movement and blur it. For water shots, this can be just the soft focus you are looking for, but for the surrounding area, you want it to be tack sharp with a steady camera.
The sky is clear and the sun is shining. Weather experts tell me there is a chance of rain, but I just can’t see that happening today.
As the day progresses, white cotton-soft clouds start to appear on the horizon. Floating high above the horizon, effortlessly dancing in sea-blue sky. More clouds, yes, but a storm coming? I don’t see how it could be possible.
The clouds start to band together in rough and tumble groups. Fluffy white pillows of moisture begin to push together into light grey gatherings. The blue sky is now the minority here, giving up to the darkened coverings.
The wind is picking up. Rumor has it that the weather could get a little rough, but I just don’t see it. From my perspective things don’t look that bad.
I can’t see the sky anymore. The once white-grey clouds are all grey now and getting darker. On the horizon, it looks like there may be some rain starting. We could use a little rain, and a shower will make the greenery happy.
Folks are saying that a thunderstorm is in the future, but I just don’t see it happening. This rain looks gentle. The wind isn’t that bad. I’m sure it will pass.
Things are getting darker now. The sun is nowhere to be found. I think I heard a little thunder in the distance and the gentle rain on the horizon is now much closer. It looks like it’s coming down a bit harder too. There was something on the radio about a storm warning, but I just don’t see it getting that much worse. I close my eyes and begin to feel the wet rain falling on my skin. This feels nice. Why would anyone be worried about a little rain?
It only takes a few moments for the horizon to suddenly disappear. The sky is black. The wind is howling. The needled rain hurts as it pelts exposed skin. It doesn’t feel so nice any more. A flash of blinding light appears with a deafening crack. Scared is relative. Frightened beyond belief is more appropriate. Where did this storm come from? Why didn’t anyone warn me that things would be this bad? I’m wet. I’m cold. I’m stranded out here, exposed and alone. Why me? I can’t possibly survive!
I hear a voice through the raging storm, and follow the sound to the shelter of a poorly lit enclave. Still cold, still wet, but no longer exposed to the elements. The fear starts to subside. A fellow traveler who was caught in the same surprise storm I was emerges from the darkness.
Interesting; his view of the storm is different. He says he knew of the storm approaching well before it arrived. He says it was predicted and ample warning was broadcast to all. The sudden changes that happened around him weren’t a surprise to him. Huh. I wonder how I missed that?
Could it be that I have become I am a member of that not-so-elite group? Have I joined the folks with the narrowing world view? Am I so focused on myself that I just ignore the world around me until being forced to pay attention, and even then still missing the big picture because I’m so wrapped up in just what happens in my own little world space? No wonder life is not as exciting and full of wonderment as I remembered it in the past!
I think I might try harder to give more notice to my surroundings and be mindful of things other than just myself. It is so true that a happy life cannot be lived fully in a vacuum. Care to join me?
♦Photo Tip♦ Sometimes cloudy days are the best type of day to go out and take pictures. No harsh shadows. The clouds will act like a giant diffusion filter and cast a soft light on subjects giving them a more even tone. The rain doesn’t have to be the enemy either; we just have to be careful about wet cameras and lenses. I use a cheap disposable shower cap to cover the camera on drizzly days-the kind you might find in a hotel room. It will cover the camera without covering the front of the lens. A soft lens cloth to intermittently clean the drops from the front keeps the pictures crisp.
Some of you may recognize this as a rerun of one of my previous blog postings, but it’s one of my favorites so I updated it to give it new life.
It rained the other day. Hard.
I like the rainy days, especially if there is a thunderstorm attached. There is something about a good thunderstorm that stimulates the senses; being able to feel the thunder, see the lightening, hear the rain, and smell the clean air. Don’t get me wrong, I like the sunny warm days too, but I find nothing depressing about a good summer thunderstorm The spirit in the storm is somehow invigorating.
As usual, I had my camera with me while out experiencing the storm. I decided to stop driving for a few minutes to be able to enjoy the symphony of the rain with the companion light show…and because I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me while I was moving.
Out the window, the storm was in full force: The pouring rain, the rumbling thunder, the hurried wind. That wind was grabbing rain drops and splashing them across the pavement like a handful of pennies scattered across the floor. The trees were twisting and flailing to the beat of the storm with the strobes of lightening flashing to create motionless moments in chaotic rhythm.
I wanted a picture that captured the vision I was seeing. I pointed the camera, framed the composition, and snapped the perfect shot.
Except the camera, in all its infinite wisdom and technology, focused on the raindrops running across the window I was shooting through. It had no interest in what I wanted it to focus on. It didn’t ask, but just assumed that is what I wanted it to do. I was in such a hurry to get the perfect shot that I didn’t bother to stop and tell it what I wanted it to focus on either.
The camera and I both had the same view, reviewed the same sight picture, but ended up focusing on two completely different things. The picture I wanted and the picture the camera captured were not the same.
How interesting it is that metaphors for life just jump out and grab me sometimes.
Many times I am presented with the opportunity to stand next to someone else, look at exactly the same path ahead as they see, but focus on a completely different part of the journey. Our sight was the same, but our vision was not. When we moved to capture the vision we each saw, there was quite a difference in the final picture we both produced, or maybe the picture never developed for either of us.
Clarity is more than just clear vision. I believe it requires a sharper focus. A defined goal and the attention to detail that shows the course, the plan, and the intended outcome. I need to make sure I am focused correctly before I take the next action or the results may be surprising…and not always in a good way.
♦PhotoTIp♦ Focus can add dramatic effects to photos. Blurring the background can create a strong focal point in the foreground subject. Blurring the fringes of a photograph help to define your subject better. Sometime blur can show motion in a still photo. Slowing down the shutter speed on moving water causes it to get a soft, silky appearance. With autofocus, it’s always a good idea to make sure that you and the camera have the same focus point in mind before taking the picture.
I’m not a patient person by nature. I really try to be; but like most of us in this encompassing culture of instant gratification, I like for things to happen faster than they usually do. We’re programmed by our surroundings to expect things to happen quickly or we think something is wrong.
I still remember the days when pictures from across the Country had to travel by mail and the journey required 5-7 days to complete. Now pictures from across the world arrive almost instantaneously from people and places I’ve never met or seen.
The hurry up world we live in can take its toll on us if we let it. I feel it tugging at my soul when I try to sit quietly and just enjoy the next minute to arrive. I know there are times when I miss out on moments of clarity or opportunities of interest because I am just not patient enough for them to arrive in my time. But every once in awhile I am faced with a choice for patience and I know that to capture the moment I want, there is no correct decision except the one that says to just wait.
This photo is just such a moment.
One morning last fall I drove up before dawn into the dark of the Tennessee Smokey Mountains. There was a location that I knew had deer, turkey and other wildlife wandering at sunrise and I wanted to see if they might cooperate for some pictures.
After parking my car and walking about a half a mile through the damp air, the sunlight slowly started to filter through the thick morning fog that settled during the night into the area around me. As I turned toward the east, it occurred to me that just as the sun were to pop over the mountain behind this tree, I believed that the resulting sunburst would be spectacular. Should I wait and see if my intuition was correct, or should I wander on and find the “next best picture” that might appear? I chose to wait, and so I sat down. It took about 20 minutes from the time I stopped until the sun peeked over the hill. When it did I was ready. This photo is one of many I got that day, some truly amazing. I still believe that had I kept going, none of the other opportunities that followed me through my day would have been available. The timing would have changed and so would the course of my day and the subjects of my pictures.
Now I try to make certain that I at least take the time for consideration when I feel myself getting impatient. What will I miss if I hurry on? What will I gain if I stop and wait? I think it’s best to avoid being in so much of a hurry that we miss the journey entirely. Perhaps this week is a good one to try and slow down.
♦Photo Tip♦ Morning light is a great photo enhancer. I’m not as much of a morning person as I used to be, but getting up early sometimes is the only way to grab the really great shots. It amazes me how just being out at dawn can cause average photos to become eye-catching photos when the rising sun, the morning dew, and the misty fog all cooperate to create backdrops and enhancements to add a “wow” factor to the subject I want to shoot. Take advantage of the natural light show that arrives early with the sun.
I love the ocean and I love the beach, but there are times when I actually avoid both, even on those beautiful sunny afternoons. The sand is warm and the water is inviting, but the crowds that pack them have the ability to quickly wick the enjoyment from the experience.
Those same crowds will disappear during the evening hours as night moves in. The the sun drops into a distance horizon, and a quiet calm blankets the beach as the moon slides into view. Stars slowly pop out of the dark sky and a kinder, gentler mood mingles nicely with the cooler salt air.
Now I can hear myself think.
Nobody is trying to talk over the sound of the crashing waves or boisterous crowds, vying for control of the soundspace around them.
Interesting how sometimes we tend to fight for that same desire to be heard throughout the day. I used to think that the louder I spoke, the more likely I was to be heard. It wasn’t long for me to figure out a different strategy. Like the beautiful quiet of the night time coast, I have found that by stepping back and speaking softly, many times the world around will get quieter as it strains to hear what I have to say.
Next time you feel nobody is listening stand tall, speak softly and see what happens.
♦Photo Tip♦ Don’t give up on pictures because the sun goes down. All it requires is patience and a steady resting point for the camera. I took the photo above on a North Carolina Beach late one night using a tripod and a long exposure. This will smooth out the water and as you can see; bring out the light of a full moon to mimic bright sunshine with darkness surrounding.
Glass is a rather unique substance. Some debate it as a solid or a very viscous liquid (although the myth that it flows over time seems to have been debunked). That debate can go on somewhere else with the science minded crowd. For me, glass provides the lens for my camera and can provide a new perspective for a picture perfect moment.
Originally, I was admiring this old building with unique blue bricks and an aged wooden structure. As I continued to contemplated what angle I wanted to shoot, my attention slowly changed from the building and windows to the wall of trees I was really seeing in the glass. The reflection became the subject and the picture it provided became the story I wanted to tell. Large, old trees that stood and watched this building go up, live it’s life, and then go dormant and abandoned; happened on by a traveling photo-philosopher. The trees continue to stand in audience of passing time as it weathers the building they shadow.
I realize in life; some days I will focus on a problem, a challenge or an issue too long and just can’t seem to figure out what needs to change to move forward. I know from experience it is those times that I must step back and reflect on what my goal really is, not the challenge, to determine how I can adjust my actions to better see my intended outcome. I use reflection to update my perspective and it helps me to get a clearer direction.
Don’t miss the reflections. Sometimes they are the source of the answers we seek.
♦Photo Tip♦ When you are wandering around with your camera…or your phone…to take pictures, don’t forget to pay attention to the shiny things that have a reflection; water, windows, polished metal, etc. Sometimes the most interesting pictures show up as a reflection on something else when by themselves they wouldn’t necessarily make a great photo–like the trees in the picture above.
An obvious statement I know, but necessary for this beginning.
Welcome to a road map for new perspective. A safe place to change your mind. An opportunity to look at your world differently…and it comes with a bonus. Contemplation combined with casual photography pointers. Does it get any better?
I think photography is more than just taking pictures. I believe that we take a picture of something because the subject of our focus holds a purpose or has some meaning. Otherwise, why bother to capture it in a photo?
So I want to create a space that takes my pictures and tells their story, or shows their meaning, or maybe provides some insight to the way we can perceive the world around us…and the bonus; ideas for you to use if you want to make your pictures stand out from everyone else’s as more interesting, more exciting, more pleasant to look at.
Take this photo, for instance. It shows the horizon and a setting sun viewed from a set vantage point. If I were able to continually move forward from this spot, the horizon moves and the sun won’t set; so I must remember that a horizon is nothing more than the limit of my current sight. If I change my perspective, the horizon associated with it changes as well. If I sit still, I define my horizon and I set the limit of what I wish to see.
Time to move the horizon.
♦Photo tip♦ When you take a picture, don’t let the horizon cut through the middle of the photo. It looks better if you make it level but keep it in the top third or bottom third of your pictures.