This entry comes with an assignment: Describe an egg.
Don’t take too long–five minutes is more than enough. Just do it, right now, before you read the rest of this entry. Open up a text document, and type it in–just a couple sentences. Describe an egg. Save.
Done? Read on.
It’s one of the beauties of living on an almost unimaginably large planet that no matter how long you’ve lived or how much you’ve traveled, there is always something else out there that you’ve never seen.
And it’s one of the beauties of being human that you don’t have to travel any farther than your own backyard… or even your living room… to find it. For instance:
with just a slight change of focus.
Some people are naturally gifted with sight beyond what others have, an ability to see things in a light, from an angle, in a focus that no one else ever thought of. The rest of us have to learn.
Photography provides one rich opportunity to see new things. You walk down the same path every day or every week, but somehow with a camera in your hand, the landscape shifts…
Three years ago I bought an awesome DSLR (it’s the Nikon D60) camera for my birthday. A few months later our third child was born. There is a direct correlation between those two facts and the third fact that I never properly learned to use my fabulous camera and have never quite been happy with the results from it. Since I have very little to do now that #3 is nearly 3, we’re running our own business, and a farm, and homeschooling, and trying to learn a bunch of new business/trade skills… I decided it was time to finally really learn to use my camera.
I started with a book we bought about a year ago, which was mostly greek to me (except that I can actually read a little Greek). I had to google most of the words, and then download a copy of the manual for my camera before I could make any sense out of it at all.
Then I took my camera for a walk (it’s a little-known fact that cameras who get regular exercise perform better on assignment). I played around with the aperture (aka F-stops) and exposure times (aka shutter speed) and ISO (aka film speed… a bit of an anachronism in these digital days).
The path I’ve walked dozens of times with my children suddenly became populated with October-blooming flowers:
And among the flowers appeared spiders:
A change of focus and the spider disappears:
Suddenly, every step provides a new world of possibilities. Every moment becomes full with potential. There are micro-worlds, little miniature alien landscapes:
Miracles in the sky:
And strange, unidentified objects underfoot:
But you don’t have to have a fancy camera or an entire afternoon in order to start seeing something new. Simply a change of perspective or concentration can do the trick. But the fastest, most fun way to do it is to take up a new hobby. Something inexpensive like drawing, painting, bird watching, flower arranging, star gazing, or using a microscope will do. Notice the way that your vision shifts: you start seeing flowers and plants for their textures and colors, for the way they interact with each other and the shapes they provide. A motion in the bushes becomes significant and interesting… you notice patterns of color and specific nuances of behavior… a strand of hair or a drop of blood become a fascinating world to explore… everything around you becomes pregnant with meaning, and the amazing and wonderful thing is that the number of angles, depths of field, focuses, frames, exposures, film speeds, textures, colors, shades, and nuances is limitless … it’s all there, all the time.
All we have to do is see.
Ready to see something new? Here’s a challenge for you: Open your fridge. Get out an egg. Set it in the middle of your kitchen table and gaze at it for a few moments. Let your mind wander, but keep your gaze on the egg. When you’ve done that for as long as you can stand, go get a pencil and paper and start drawing. Look at the egg and try to draw what you’re actually seeing–not just lines, but shadows and shapes, light and dark, angles and curves and changes in depth.
When you’re done, open a new text file and repeat the assignment at the beginning of this entry: Describe an egg. Short and sweet, or long and rambling, whatever comes to mind. Save.
Compare your documents. Did you see something new? I hope so.