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.
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 air is crisp and biting as it grasps at the light fog that travels through the tall stands of majestic trees. They proudly keep watch as their ancestors have done for hundreds of years; guarding the path of the water below. The quiet is broken only by the low roar of the falls and the sound of the river as it travels it course; keenly directed by its banks and purposeful in motion. At the top of the falls it almost seems to rush in excitement to the edge and bounce along with joy to the waiting pool below. There, fine fingers of mist try to climb the walls in the hopes of running the gauntlet once again, only to be picked up by the wind and tossed playfully along, quenching the thirst of the plants that hang on with anticipation and turn their leaves up to the cool, comforting moisture that envelops them.
I watch this river, and I am envious of the journey. I imagine the excitement of being able to travel with such purpose and guided direction, but also with constant anticipation of the unknown ahead. I relish the excitement generated by the falling water and the fun it has sliding over the smooth helpful stones.
Such a expedition is mesmerizing. I contemplate how each day I would awaken and drink in new surroundings; it would change the person I become. On this type of path my future would be assured to develop itself tremendously different than the course I considered a year, a week, or even a day ago.
So why can’t I live this way? During my muddled existence every day, doesn’t each new adventure or obstacle encountered create new character traits to master? Somehow, I must learn to appreciate the opportunity afforded me with each new sunrise and eagerly embrace my voyage with the same enthusiasm that the river takes to its course. I need to jump off the waterfalls of life with the confidence of knowing there is a waiting pool of refreshing water to break my fall; pushing me down life’s river to see what might be waiting around the next bend.
♦Photo Tip♦ Framing your subject helps to guide the eyes in a photo. This can be accomplished with anything that provides a “border” to the picture, and does not mean it has to be present on all sides of the picture. In the photo above, a large tree is used to frame one side of the composition, while also providing some added depth to the picture. It is important not to get stuck thinking that framing always has to be something that provides a straight line. Shrubs, symmetrical clouds on the horizon, a road sign, the side of a barn…realize that being creative is the most important aspect to keep in mind when looking through the viewfinder or at your screen.
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.
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.
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.