Whaddya See?

Write what you know.

What does Google turn up for this sentence? Various attributions — Twain and Hemingway most frequently — none of them validated. Various takes on its meaning. Various opinions on whether it’s good or terrible advice for would-be writers.

Inexplicably, what doesn’t turn up — unless it’s several pages down — is my memory of a mid-term exam in political philosophy a lifetime ago. Nor does any discussion of how this advice relates to photography, likely because it hasn’t been written yet. Let’s rectify that now.

The place? Prescott ON.

The scene? The St. Lawrence riverfront.

The day? Gray.

As I walk along said riverfront with an old friend, I take a few phone-photos. I have no plan: These are spur-of-the-moment images of things that catch my eye.

When I edit them, I see things I didn’t see on my phone’s screen.

I see how featureless the sky really was. (Should I go back on a blue-sky day? Maybe during a storm?)

I see extraneous and distracting bits at the edges that don’t crop out well, at least not in a standard photo size. (Should I go back and pay more attention to framing?)

Mostly, I see, as I have before, that great shots are a function of access, planning, and time, and the greatest of these is access. Access allows me to redo shots on a better day or with a better camera. To identify and fix framing errors. To spend the time to get the perfect angle of the light, the perfect action set-up, and still be home for supper.

Although exotic-to-me locales and subjects can be more enticing, the close-to-home ones can yield better photos. It’s certainly easier to get good photos — good technically — where I have the chance to try again.

So, should I just photograph what I know? No. Technical proficiency aside, there’s a place for the happy accident: the subject caught in passing. There’s a place for the unfamiliar: the thing that is novel-to-me but that local residents have long since stopped seeing.

More than that, photos help me remember what I’ve seen.

We write to taste life twice.
– AnaΓ―s Nin

But to taste it twice, verbally or photographically, I have to taste it the first time. So, finally, there’s a place for using photography to help me see and appreciate what’s in front of me.

Not every shot has to be great. It’s enough that every subject is. If I see it.

This entry was posted in Appreciating Deeply, Thinking Broadly and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Whaddya See?

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    No, Isabel, it’s not enough that *it* can be tasted twice. You can taste it when you take that picture, and you can taste it again when you examine those photos and decide which ones to keep and which ones to trash. (Or, sometimes, which ones to edit using Photoshop, etc.)

    But to truly enjoy a photo (or words, or music) you also have to share it with someone. In the olde days, we did this by inviting friends in for an evening of slides. Today, the sharing is more random — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…

    I note the eagerness with which people say, “I’ve got a picture of that!”, and thumb frantically through the gallery on their cell phones. To them, it’s not the picture that matters, it’s the sharing.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – <> Fair enough. I have a friend who used to do PowerPoint shows of her photos at seniors’ lodges or nursing homes. I’m not sure what I’d do with my photos if not for this blog.

  2. Lorna says:

    β€œF-stop 6 and be there”

    A speaker I once heard describing the secret of achieving a great photo.

    Yours here ARE great.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Lorna – πŸ™‚ I love these little mnemonics: I think I read one once for “F8 is great.” And yes, being there is essential. (And thank you. :-))

  3. Paul T says:

    Lovely….as I am a photo neophyte I do know what I like.

  4. Mary Gibson says:

    And they are all lovely but my favourite is the stones and wood.

  5. From my perspective, it was a great day, and these photos capture the location and thus the particular memories of our lunch and walk.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – πŸ™‚ Yes, capturing the experience is another purpose that doesn’t require technical genius.

  6. Nice spotting Isabel and nicely shared

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim R – Many thanks. Maybe it’s having grown up on the Prairies, but I really appreciate water . . .

  7. Tom Watson says:

    Great photos no matter what you see, Isabel.

  8. John Whitman says:

    Isabel –
    We write to taste life twice.
    – AnaΓ―s Nin

    I intuitively knew this is why I take the time to do trip reports, but Nin summarizes it so well.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – πŸ™‚ She does. And I find that I pay better attention if I know I’m going to “report” later, even if it’s a self-imposed obligation.

  9. barbara carlson says:

    Damn. I lost my whole paragraph on my take on the narrative quality of your second (great) photo — but my last comment (of 3) was Memento Mori.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – πŸ™‚ Computers: Can’t live with them and can’t break them into little pieces. Glad you liked the photo.

Comments are closed.