The Third Week


There are no excuses for missing the photograph. Our job is to get the photograph. Not to be there five minutes late. Not to fumble with the equipment. Not to not-know how to use the camera. Not to forget to check the focus, and the exposure, and the composition. Anybody else can fail in these things—not photographers! We have to be there. We have to be ready. And we have to be competent in what we do.


Photographers see the picture, get the picture. That’s all there is to it. Not everyone can do that. Photographers can. We can depend on photographers to see the picture, get the picture. If you can’t do either of those things reliably, consistently, dependably, but are determined to, that counts. Call yourself a photographer and stick with the regimen. It’s only a matter of time until you see the picture, get the picture—reliably, consistently, dependably. You can already consider yourself a member of the guild. Determination is the price of admission.


It’s a nice foggy day outside, and there is ice on the pond. There are some pictures I will not take. I can get fog in April and August. I don’t have to go for fog in January and February. I know I should be more of a sport about these things, and volunteer to be miserable for the sake of the photo, but. There are lines to be drawn. You wouldn’t stand in traffic to get a photo. I wouldn’t stand in freezing fog.


I want to take landscape photographs and write, and that entails traveling to the places I want to photograph, and presenting what I photograph and what I write to an audience, or to audiences. A virtual audience, as in the web or eBooks, will do. And, I want to make enough money to allow me to do those things, which includes buying the equipment required to do it, and affording the physical comfort that enables me to do it without particular hardship (I don’t want to camp out and spend a lot of time being cold, wet and hungry, for example). That’s the core. That’s central. Everything else, wife, home, the children and the grandchildren, movies, and relationships, Christmas and Thanksgiving, and the like, coalesce around the center. My work is to make central what is central. It takes a lot of juggling to stand at the center, to be who we are. It is called “Balancing the contradictions.”


Even the sun needs help from time to time. A sunset on the Sound would be nicely enhanced if a boat were to come sailing into the picture. So, we wait on a boat, hoping one comes along before the sun disappears. Photography is the fine art of waiting. Waiting on the children to get out of the waterfall. Waiting on a cloud to diffuse the sunlight. Waiting for the wind to diminish. Waiting on the fog to lift or roll in, for the rain to stop, or start. Waiting, waiting. Watching, watching. Some days it pays off nicely, helping us forget the days it doesn’t.


The camera opens us up to places and closes us off to them. The blessing is the curse. Looking, seeing, we fail to simply be. We lose the gift of presence, the gift of being there, of being a part of the place, of belonging. We observe, and as observers, we hear, we touch, we taste, we smell, as a function, as an extension, of seeing. We gather, absorb, a sense of the place as an extension of seeing. But, we do not just sit with our backs against a tree and let the people with the cameras and the tripods bounce around from compositional vantage point to compositional vantage point. We do not just pick a spot, and sink into it, closing our eyes, perhaps, and opening ourselves to the wonder of being where we are. The camera is a harsh taskmaster. We have work to do. We are burning daylight. There is no time to waste. The moment waits for no one. We must take advantage of the opportunity. And, in so doing, we lose a different opportunity. If you are going to ride the ride, you have to pay the fare. Which ride is our ride? To what do we say yes, and no?


I have a picture taken at Bright Angel Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with my thumb holding my hat shielding the sun from the camera lens in the upper left corner of the picture. That’s what film did for us. Digital gives us an LCD screen and takes the guesswork out of image making. With film we could bracket all we wanted, thinking the thumb is nicely out of the picture, but NOT! A beautiful shot in a classic location lost to a wayward thumb! What do you do? I hold the photo up as a reminder to me and a lesson to others! Be awake! Pay attention! Check the edges! And, love yourselves anyway when you don’t! Sometimes, I can almost see the rest of the photo without being distracted by the thumb.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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