Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, June 27, 2008

At First Sight

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
-Miriam Beard

I was prompted recently to think about the art of capturing images, both with eye and camera, and I think about how devastating it is to be forced to surrender any creative opportunity. Of course, we cannot observe everything the world has to offer, nor can every photograph be a successful one.
Whenever I travel with Spouse, I take possession of the camera while he maneuvers the car. It is necessary, on long drives, to prevent the battery from fading so, as soon as I consider that a stretch of the journey has become bland and not worthy of a photograph, I turn off the camera and relax to enjoy the scenery.
It is inevitable that, moments after I close the lens cap and shift from being photographer to passenger, we will turn a bend and come upon some lovely sight. It might be a bird or a cloud, a solitary old man in his field or the hazy skyline of a city- something that lifts our travelling spirits as we sweep over a hill.
I will scramble to capture the image but by the time the camera has sprung to life once more, the particular landmark, or at least the very best perspective of it, has passed us by.
"Too late, too slow," it trills, a half mile, now a mile behind us. "You missed it!"
When that happens, I sit and mourn for a spell, the camera resting useless in my lap, the battery winding away.
The cycle begins again as soon as I decide that the battery must be preserved. Spouse will call out for me to seize the moment, but I already will be struggling with the duplicitous device.
I now suspect that I have been going about this entirely the wrong way.
Spouse and I have been reducing the goods in our small apartment for the better part of a year. We have learned how to determine what we need or wish to keep and we separate the rest and either give, sell or dispose of the superfluous possessions. We speak often to one another about the peaceful atmosphere that such activity provokes and- happily- are in complete agreement about the final destination of most items.
Knowing what to hold on to and what to cast aside- that sense did not come easily. We had to learn it day by day and item by item until at last we found a pattern. We were forced to learn about ourselves ever before the process became therapeutic or simple. In essence, we had to learn how to see.
There is so much noise, clutter and extraneous information in the world that even something as elementary as taking a photograph has some requirements, particularly that we must train ourselves to instantaneously ascertain the worth of an article or a scene.
In hindsight I wonder if, at those times when the camera battery appeared to be trickling away for lack of interesting vistas, I might have been missing something wonderful. It seems rather unusual bad luck to have beauty show its face within a trice of my putting the camera to sleep.
It could well be that, but I am beginning to doubt the possibility.


polona said...

well, it happens to me all the time that i see a delightful scene and my camera (the compact canon i carry with me on most occasions) is tucked somewhere deep inside my bag or the new dslr thing has the 'wrong' lens on...
when i expect there might be things to shoot, i never put the lens cap on and the good things about dslrs is, they spring to life with one flick of the knob so i can save batteries without losing too much time to turn it on...

Pappy said...

Isn't that the way it always goes? I think it is programed into the new digital cameras. Go by Pappy's and receive your award for consistently good writing.

will said...

Here's a thought: Make photography the destination and not part of the trip.

Grab shots work by luck and good fortune, accidental good pictures do happen but rarely.

If you are doing street photography, as Lee Friedlander, then compositions in 1/64 of a second can be wonderful But how many have his eye?

Consider how the great nature photographers work (Ansel Adams, Art Wolfe, Robert Glenn Ketchum).

Find a location, sit and watch the light and shadows. Visualize your unsnapped image. Wait and wait some more. Sometimes leaving to return another day. If is it meant to be the moment will arrive and you will click the shutter.

paulmerrill said...

Well done on narrowing down the possessions. I need to continue doing that. It's a never-ending process, sadly.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, I would never guess that from your wonderful photos. This was prompted by that photo you took recently that you didn't think was so perfect. I wouldn't even have been able to get anything people would recognise. We're always on the lookout for a new camera, one that might be faster.

Texican, programmed most definitely. It's so unfair... not my fault at all.
What a great day- another award. Thank you! That's wonderful news :) and a good way to start exploring others' blogs.

Bill, "destination and not part of the trip." I certainly agree with that, not just about photos but everything in life. It's always a good thing to see a new visitor.
Thanks for that helpful comment. I'm learning, but expert advice is always welcome.

Paul, I have learned that it is indeed never ending, but it's worth the work. Now we have more going out than coming in and it makes us feel better.

mermaid said...

I took my toddler to a small amusement park, and chided myself for forgetting the camera at home. This post reminds me of the butterfly nature of things and how some things cannot be caught, captured, or held for inspection later. Perhaps it is because a new moment wants us to pay attention to it:)

This one made me think.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Mermaid, I've never been fond of video cameras for that reason- I'd rather be watching something live, in the moment, than recording it. I suppose one or two photographs is okay but I wouldn't spend an entire vacation looking through a camera. I'd rather be watching.
Thanks for sharing that. You reminded me of one of my older posts:
I try to bear that wisdom in mind.

tangobaby said...

I love this post because I can relate so well these days. I am finding more of the heartbreak of running out of batteries and not having a second set, because I am trying to be very good about being prepared for random beauty to pop up in front of my lens and am learning to have more batteries on me than I think I will need.

The only other time I do not get a picture I want is when it is of a person and I am still too shy to take the photo, or to ask for permission. That to me is almost a little more heartbreaking because maybe I could have made a new friend, but the opportunity has passed me by.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Tangobaby, being prepared would be a good thing- I try but even having a camera on my lap is not enough! It takes so long to get it started.
I know what you mean about asking people- you don't know until you try and I'm sure most people would be happy to be considered for a photograph!

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