How often do we walk through life not seeing the beauty that surrounds us? I’m not talking about the obvious in your face kind of beauty either. Seeing the beauty in a sunrise, you would have to be blind to miss it. How about the many wildflowers of spring, or in your home garden for that matter, who among us doesn’t like a pretty flower? Then there are the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the fall. With their vibrant colors and the granite peaks, try to not be awe-struck by that glorious explosion of color. But those are all easy. What about the things we look past on our way to photograph that easy shot? Now before the hate mail starts pouring in, let me just say there is nothing easy about making exceptional images of these obviously beautiful scenes and subjects. But those subjects are slap you in the face, “here I am, look at me,” beautiful. A person doesn’t need an artistic bone in their body to see and appreciate them.
Now let me ask you,when was the last time you thought twice about something as mundane as skunk cabbage? Or the giant yellow garden spider you steer clear of in the flower garden? The black and yellow markings of the spider are quite striking, and while spiders do creep me out a bit, some of them and their webs are quite beautiful. As for stinky old skunk cabbage, seeing its broad green leaves back-lit by the early morning sun will surely change the way you look at it. I also find old barns quite appealing. Not the quintessential, red with white trim, well maintained New England barn either. I’m talking about the weathered, forgotten, and starting to fall, barns. There is, at least to me, something beautiful about them. While the beauty in such things may be less obvious at first, and you may really have to use your imagination to see it, trust me, it’s there. You just have to be willing to open up your mind and see it.
If you want to challenge your seeing ability, try this exercise. Find yourself a nice 20’x20′ (give or take) piece of land and plop yourself down in the middle of it. No cheating, stay out of the flower garden! Now spend the next hour making photographs in this spot. It may take a while for things to “click,” I know it did the first time I tried it, but you may be amazed at what you come up with. Be creative, lay on your back and shoot straight up, or on your belly for a worms eye view. Just don’t sit there and shoot everything from the same angle. Even if you don’t come up with any photographs you feel are worthy of sharing, learning to look at things a little differently will have been worth it. I can’t take credit for this exercise, I can’t even remember where I first heard of it, but I feel it has helped my “seeing” considerably. Give it a try and maybe you’ll start to “see”.
As a final note, I would like to apologize to all of you who, after reading the title of this blog post, have Madonna’s “Vogue” stuck in your heads, I am truly sorry!