It's funny how, even with the practice of carrying the camera with me everywhere, sometimes I still have to remind myself to actually take it out and shoot. These telephone wires are at the intersection three blocks from my house and every morning there is a small flock of pigeons perched here, presumably clucking over all us rats on the race to work.
I sit at the stop sign, awaiting my turn, and in my head frame up the picture of their silhouetted fat bodies facing east and then drive on. Yesterday for the first time it occurred to me to get out of the car and actually take the picture.
I used to have a colleague with a bumper sticker that read COMMUTING IS PUNISHMENT. I must operate on the assumption that I'm not actually being punished for some unknown sin, but I can say with certainty that commuting becomes dangerously hypnotic.
Yesterday I decided there is no fighting the 55-200mm lens. If I must zoom, then let me zoom in on something with lots of detail.
Here is one thing I really love about taking pictures: it forces you to keep an open mind. I often go into a location with a specific idea of the image I'd like to capture. Yesterday, when I stopped at this creek I had ideas of overexposed morning sun reflected off a meandering stream of ice. And I sort of made that picture.
But then, as I looked a little more closely I noticed this gorgeous rime on the grass on the creekbanks. Oooh, yeah. So I slowed down and framed that up. And as I combed the bank looking for a patch of rime lit the way I would have liked it, I started to notice the little islands of frosted leaf debris. Click, click click.
So I love that this practice forces me to be flexible and to slow down enough to notice the details. I may shoot out my car window sometimes and I almost never have more than five or ten minutes to give to a photo op. But in that five minutes I have to slow down and keep my eyes (and mind) open if I want to have any hope of noticing something worth capturing.
I would have easily taken another half-hour in this park yesterday morning to work the area if I had the time. But even if the slow, open moments only come in increments of five, I'll take them.
First of all, let me say that this 55-200mm lens that I'm confined to now that my wide is back at Nikon getting a tune-up is, er, challenging. My god, you have to have an incredible amount of space to be able to frame anything with that sucker and in these short days where everything takes place inside, well, that's tough. I know that 55-200 isn't even a lot of zoom in the grand scheme of things and I remember being so excited about this lens when I first bought it. But I'm coming to realize how distinctly I've developed a preference for my wide angle lens and for the flexibility it gives me when I shoot.
I have written here before (ad nauseum) about the feeling that I am constantly rushed these days. And yes, I realize that most reasonable people with jobs and families to nurture would not take on another daily commitment, especially one as elective as this photo project. But as I sat in traffic tonight, noticing the tiniest little sliver of a Shiva moon hang over the mountains, and watching the chameleon sky change colors and the digital clock on my dashboard tick up to the hard deadline of daycare pickup, I felt a little crushed by it all.
I actually shot this photo out the driver's side window of my car while it idled at a red light at the top of my exit. I would have liked to break out the tripod and frame it up correctly and make sure the focus was razor sharp but all there was time to do was fire the shutter and hope to capture the sky. It brought me face to face with a feeling that I half-ass everything. Hopefully well enough to get along, but perhaps not as well as I possibly could. And that is more demoralizing than the rushing.
Since I became an adult I've never been very good at these December holidays. Generally I prefer the food and community overdose of Thanksgiving to the consumption frenzy of Christmas. But now I have a two year old, so it's time to get on the ball. I visited my grandmother earlier this year when she was busy downsizing and she bestowed one of her menorahs on Ezra and me. It's been sitting in his room ever since and when he started singing Happy Birthday to it and pretending to blow out the imaginary candles, I decided we should teach him about Chanukah.
Now I don't know much about Chanukah beyond the basics. In the past week we have shown Ezra how to light the candles from right to left and we read the prayer. Then I give him a new dinosaur each night because (as we explained to him) dinosaurs are an integral part of Chanukah. And then he sings Happy Birthday and blows the candles out.
Then tonight, after that, we decorated a Christmas tree.
I like to think of this as the kind of flexible, creative thinking you can engage in when like me, you don't observe any religion and yet feel entitled to pervert any demonstration of religiosity for the purposes of your own family fun.