Look closely at the photo above. I love the calm, mirrored surface of a pond and a crowd of willing models gracefully standing still to have their picture taken.
Interesting thing about pictures in modern times. Things are not always as they appear. The digital age is a wonderful time to practice photography for sure. I remember when I first started taking pictures with a 35mm Pentax camera using rolls of film. The photos required perfection when you snapped the shutter; there was anticipation in the darkroom as the negatives developed, and there was at times disappointment when you realize hours after taking a picture that you missed the shot that you hoped to capture. Digital photographers will never feel that emotional pit in their stomach that was so devastating as a roll of film gone bad or a picture missing attention to detail that isn’t realized until long after the chance to re-shoot is gone. I don’t miss that at all.
And that’s a good thing! Now I can take pictures, see my work immediately, and when shooting non-moving landscape; delete and try again if needed. It is a wonderful thing.
The challenge in today’s photo world is for the observer. With tools like Lightroom and Photoshop, I can not only “fix” photo issues after the fact, but I can literally create entire canvases of images I never saw except in my mind. I can transform photographs into personalized art. I can also attempt to manipulate what I want my audience to see or feel when they look at the pictures I take.
The picture at the top of the page is actually cropped and rotated 180 degrees so that what you think are the trees actually are just their reflection. A keen eye may notice on their initial look the subtle feeling that something wasn’t right, but even I tend to believe what I see at first glance.
Life can be tricky this way as well. It’s so important that with all that goes on around me, I don’t fall into the trap of always just accepting things at face value. When I do, I become a pawn to those who will happily take advantage of a malleable personality that comes with “crowd thinking”. I am who I am. I am responsible for who I become. I have to be vigilant on a daily basis to be certain that my perception is correct before I let it become my reality.
The alternative is to find myself upside down in this crazy world and never being able to figure out which way is up.
The temperature hung around freezing for over a week and I responded by staying indoors in the warmth and comfort of a controlled climate, watching the world through my protective window until I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
Grabbing my cameras and layering up for the cold, I set out to see a waterfall that I wanted to photograph. A few inches of new snow-covered the trail, and the blank canvas of white made it clear no other soul was walking the path ahead of me. The winter blanket provided a sound dampening layer to the forest floor around me and the silence broken only by the crunch of my boots and the occasional falling icicles from the branches high above me.
I heard the falling water long before I saw it. Making my way carefully down the slippery trail, the river came into view and then the target of the journey.
Heavy sheets of ice hung from the rock walls alongside the waterfall, building slowly from the freezing mist that danced with the wind in the small canyon; coating the ground and the trail that passed behind the cascade as well. A clear challenge presented itself. The best angle to photograph this scene was on the other side of the river. The trail to get there passed behind the waterfall and was clearly covered in thick ice. I cautiously started to navigate the obstacle course and very quickly realized that I was setting myself up for failure. The path had an almost imperceivable slope that announced itself with clarity once I started down it, moving me toward the wall of water and associated freezing river. I just wasn’t in the mood to go for a cold swim.
I re-evaluated my situation and gave myself a conservative 20% success rate of making it through this part of the journey unscathed; and then I quickly but carefully turned around.
I backtracked down the river and found a much more pleasant crossing point and did some off-trail navigating to get to where I wanted to shoot from. The picture above was one of the many I took that day.
I face new challenges everyday. Some of them are self-imposed and some of them present unexpectedly. Few are life threatening and most are easily negotiated. I look forward to each one of these challenges because they are what help me to continually develop my sense of judgement, they strengthen my self-worth, and they create a positive history of accomplishment or failure.
Positive failure? Yes. I don’t ever see failure as a bad thing for me; because I never fail by choice and I never fail from giving up. When I fail it’s only the result of my best efforts not being successful and does not reflect on my character or my abilities. With each, I have a new foundation of knowledge and a new skill set to learn.
The people who need to fear failure are those who use it an excuse to stop trying. I welcome it as a reason to try harder.
I am thankful for the opportunity to wake up each morning and know that by choice, I am always walking the path to success. The slippery slopes I wander upon may create the need for me to change direction, but they don’t require me to give up on the goal of the journey and with determination I keep moving forward.
For a photographer, every time the seasons change we are presented with the opportunity to record it in digital admiration. Summer is good for green and thunderstorms and outdoor action. Winter is good for black and white and high contrast pictures; ice and snow and crisp mornings. The spring time brings new growth and colorful flowers, gentle rain and windy fields of flowing grass. The Fall, though. Wow. Trees compete to see which can show off the most spectacular transformation and present us with shows that rival broken clouds in vibrant summer beach sunsets. The picture above was taken a few days ago while flying over the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. The one below was snapped while wandering through those same mountains last year at this time.
For a few precious days the colors are amazing and mesmerizing and emotion-creating…and then just as suddenly as they appeared, they are gone for another year. The leaves fall to the ground and the naked trees are left just standing in perhaps a bewildered embarrassment before they go to sleep. They must then wait patiently for mother nature to wake them up and tell them it’s time to get dressed and get back to providing shade once again.
Although the colors are spectacular, as they go away so does my excited spirit. This time of year tends to be more melancholy as I feel the changes from warm and bright to dull and white.
But my mood is mine to control. If I don’t take an active role in what direction is wants to take, it will pull me down quickly. I start to dwell on the cold of last winter or the somber visions of grey boney trees.
So I pull out the colorful pictures and use them to remind me of the things I have to look forward to and rekindle the memories of the bright and warm days I know are still possible.
Sometimes I need to do this with my personal goals as well. I lose my focus on the end-game I am striving for and allow myself to get distracted when the changing scenery around me starts to become less than spectacular. I get pulled down by the memory of past failures and dwell on flaws.
In the same way I use the pictures to boost my spirits I can use the past successes to keep me motivated towards my goals. I reflect on the many challenges I faced head on in the past and realize that I am who I am and where I am because of the tenacity needed to keep going.
I recall that one of the key character traits that distinguishes those who are successful in life from those who are not is that those who succeed will always get up again when they miss their mark. They don’t always reach their goals or get to expected outcomes. They just never stop trying.
If I stop when I fail, I chose to remain identified by that failure as my last act. I make a decision to be unsuccessful.
Once I get up and try again I immediately move back to the category of a potential achiever. My past becomes my past. I don’t need to drag it along to the future with me. Although it will always be part of who I am, those times when I was less than stellar do not become my prime source of identification.
I will be successful right up until the day I decide not to be.
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.
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.