Saturday, April 24, 2010

Seeing - Part 3 (repost)

A few days ago, a friend of mine told me she is more aware of her surroundings as a result of knowing me. Wow. What a great compliment.

"Seeing" is very important to me -- not just looking, but seeing. There is a big, big difference between the words "looking" and "seeing". Her kind words reminded me of a series of posts I did many months ago. The 3-post series was the result of a weekend workshop I was asked to give. When I'm asked to do anything instructional, I try to put my own spin on it. Anyone can pick up the technical requirements of how to use a camera. It's far more difficult, however, to have a unique sense of vision. In my opinion, we can develop our ability to "see".

Here's the post. This one's for you, Liz.

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 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 tiny gold nugget in a big bucket of stones. 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 a hidden cactus flower in the desert. I'm an oddball that way.

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, Rome, Nice, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the canals of The Netherlands, Mount McKinley and more. I loved them all, but if I didn't see the more "pedestrian" beauty around me, I'd be missing an important and fulfilling part of life.

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. Come on people, let's live life.

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

Here's my advice.
Carve out some peace and quiet as often as you can. 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.

For example:

  • 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 or part of your name.


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

Go without 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 give me a call...I'll go, too.



Hindsfeet said...

To my "Gold Nugget" friend...

So deeply touched by this grateful for the precious privilege of seeing through the eyes of your heart...

...I love the view from here.....


Shutterbug said...

This is wonderful, but you left out FACES :O) I see them everywhere and then I start talking to myself and my kids look at me like I am crazy, hehehe. I am crazy and that is so much better than boring. Thanks for sharing. I am gonna call you too :O)

Dan said...

Let's go, Carol!

I saw two new "faces" in the garden tonight. Too bad I was pushing a lawn mower and not my shutter release. Stay tuned!

Shutterbug said...

Well, you let me know when. You are the busy man and that is good. I would to hit Dow Gardens. I hear they are in full bloom over there! My allergies are so bad right now though. Zytec D-----here I come.

Joy said...

This was excellent advice. I like to discover a 'scene' or composition that isn't obvious.