Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Seeing - Part 3


Improving Our Ability to See

I have lived in Michigan all of my adult life. There are areas of Michigan that are incredibly beautiful. I live in central Michigan. It's as flat as a pancake. I've heard many people complain about it being bland and mundane. Maybe it is. But for me, it is not a beauty contest. In my mind, beauty is's just needs to be discovered.

"The best pix are right in front of you"
- Joe McNally

I suspect that living here has made me a better seer. When I hear people criticize this area, it saddens me. Not because they're badmouthing the area I've chosen to live, but because they are choosing not to see. They're being lazy with a God-given gift. They are putting their brain in neutral. There is beauty here, they just don't see it. It's on a different measuring stick. They prefer that their version of beauty be displayed like an opulent feast…an over the top, in-your-face beauty. Don't get me wrong, I love that kind of beauty, too, but I've learned that I prefer to discover beauty. I find it far more fulfilling…like finding a gold nugget. I have never thought that standing in front of a beautiful tourist attraction and mindlessly snapping a photo was nearly as fulfilling as finding a buried treasure. To me, a magnificent vista is no more impressive than finding an illusive cactus flower in the desert. Maybe I have a screw loose. I'm okay with that.

I would much rather discover beauty than have it handed to me on a platter. I don't need overused clich├ęs of beauty. I have seen the beaches of Thailand and the Caribbean, the rainforests of Brazil, the Swiss Alps, Venice, Nice, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the canals of The Netherlands, Mount McKinley and more. I love them all. All those experiences most certainly contribute to who I am.

Maybe I am naturally curious. I have a thirst to see. Thankfully, it's a thirst that I never seem to quench. And it's the element of discovery that propels me. Capturing a photo is secondary. As a kid, I loved finding an Easter egg…a penny on the ground, a wildflower, a frog, or a baby bird in a nest. I still love it. Just because we are adults doesn't mean we can't have fun with discoveries.

"Don't take photographs. Be taken by photographs."
- Ernst Haas

Here's my advice.
As often as you can, carve out some peace and quiet. Shed the chatter of civilization - your cell phone, iPod, computer, TV, radio, pager, and yes, this blog. Listen to what silence sounds's probably been a while. Let your creative spirit take you over....and challenge yourself with a photographic self-assignment.


  • Shoot a series of things that are blue (or your favorite color).
  • Shoot a series of things that say "no" (a stop sign, barbed wire, a locked gate, a child-proof cap, a neon sign that says "Closed").
  • Shoot things that are round.
  • Shoot the letters of the alphabet that create your name, your child's name, or a verse.
  • Shoot signs that bear your name.

Sierra Exif JPEG

  • Shoot arrow shapes.
  • Shoot the five Rs (rust, ruin, ramshackle, ruble & rot).

Don't have any expectations. Expectations are a killer of creativity. You will see things you've never seen before. I promise.

"Go out empty and be filled with what you see"
- Jay Maisel

Now get out there.

And call me...I'll go, too.



Geek Girl said...

Ok. I'm calling you when I get there. We're going to go take photos of blue things.

Dan Denardo said...

Let's go! There is nothing I'd rather do.

Ron said...

Very well said! Couldn't agree more. Love that quote by Haas. And where in the world did you find Dan Ct?

Dan Denardo said...

Hahaha. Dan Ct. is just a couple miles from our office! I'm gonna start looking for Ron signs!

Javier said...

"Don't take photographs. Be taken by photographs." Amazing phrase!

Someone once said (I think it might have been Michaelangelo but I'm not sure) that the masterpiece is already inside the block of marble, you just have to take off all that's of no use.

Thanks for your comment the other day!


Dan Denardo said...

Javier, Thanks for the brilliant quote you've attributed to Michaelangelo.

Jay said...

Hey Dan.

Thank you for your compliments on the newborn pictures! ---although, I'm not so sure that the music you were hearing wasn't coming from the music player at the bottom of the page. :)

I like you, love the beauty in the small things. --- I try hard not to take the big things for granted... but I love to find that one thing that nobody else sees, or maybe that only I see.

Interesting that you should say take pictures of letters... i kind of have this hobby where I find things that look like letters and take their picture. (in nature, architecture, etc.) I can put the pics side by side and spell all kinds of things. It's turned into something that a few people around me do too. They'll call and say, I saw the coolest "G" today... it's a neat thing.

Oh --- and I asked Ron this question, but I was just curious if you have ever done any work in Uganda?

--and the Blue post up top is inspiring. I love it.

Dan Denardo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Denardo said...

Good try, Jay! However, it was not music coming from the bottom of your page! It was your beautiful image. Your friend must be over the moon about it.

I love your letter "seeing" exercise. What a great, creative idea!

I have never had the good fortune to visit Uganda. I would love to someday.

Have a great Friday!