I used a point-and-shoot camera for the longest time, and still do. But when I got frustrated by its limitations, a cherished friend offered me a higher-end camera from his personal collection. In doing so, he opened for me the gates to a whole new world. There’s no way I can adequately express my gratitude for Peter Laird’s generous gift, but I'd like to give it a try.
By its very definition, “photography” is “to write or draw with light.” I'm one who's drawn to light, as a rule, and I tend to notice things other people don't. But my new camera invites me to look even closer. I'm learning to twist the lens just so, in a way that brings near the things I might otherwise have overlooked: sharp edges and rounded corners, bold patterns and rough textures, saturated and sun-bleached colors.
I'm learning to release any preconceived notions about capturing a “perfect” shot, and to focus instead on the light…
…not only in my creative endeavors, but in every aspect of my life.
It comes more naturally to me in some areas than others, but I'm doing my level best to remember Leonard Cohen's admonition:
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
The side benefits are many, including but not limited to the lightness of being –the unmitigated joy–that comes of slinging a camera over my shoulder, and plunging headlong into unexplored territory.
Old habits die hard, and I'm sorely tempted to point out (and to apologize for) any and all mistakes, most of which aren't due to camera malfunctions. Errors reveal themselves on the screen, even though I filtered out the obvious ones before posting. But even in their unedited state, these pictures manage to tell a story. My story, in all its imperfect glory.
It's a messy thing, this bearing witness.
Given enough time (and oodles of practice) my photography skills have improved. Technologies advanced at a more rapid pace, to the point where I eventually decided to add another type of camera to my collection. So here I am again, at the threshold of new discoveries. It’s scary and frustrating, to learn the new settings and whatnots. But I’m reminding myself anew that photography—writing and even life itself—is not about perfection. It’s about staying awake and keeping ourselves open. It's about putting one foot in front of the other, confident in the belief that light has the power to pierce any shadows. When viewed through this lens, it's impossible for me to overstate my appreciation for Peter's camera, accompanied as it was by so many important lessons. It's a gift more valuable than I could ever quantify.