See YOU first. The viewer paints the rest.
Photography is about light, we're told. It's composition, the rule of thirds, separation and leading lines... It's about knowing what and how to shoot before you shoot, so you can prepare and frame exactly what you want the reader to see.
All of which has been great advice for me, as I work hard to learn my craft.
But... It begins and ends with you, I've learned. What you see, who you are in the capture you're framing, what you're exhaling into your shot, releasing it into the world and the image so others might see.
I felt Zen during this shoot.
In the backyard of a stranger's house, during an estate sale because the owners were moving. People swarming everywhere, but no one noticing the Koi pond in the back yard. The largest Koi I'd ever seen.
Would they be okay? Where their people taking them on the move? Would the new owners take care of them, these beautiful, elegant, defenseless angels?
I grabbed my camera--no tripod, I hadn't planned on shooting that day--asked the sale people if they minded, and lost myself in capturing the flow and ethereal beauty no one was seeing but me.
Meanwhile, thirty (sixty?) minutes later, when I surfaced, I was surrounded by a crowd of adults and children who'd made their way over to see what I was seeing.
"Look at them!" Someone was saying. "I can catch them," a little boy exclaimed, running around and around the edge of the enormous pond--consequently, shooing all that beauty back my way for another shot.
"They're amazing," a young woman said to me. "I had no idea they were here, until I saw you and wondered what you were taking pictures of..."
Making someone wonder with something I've captured. Could there be anything better?
Helping someone see what wouldn't be there for them, without my lens first touching it. It was a Zen moment I'll never forget.
Beautiful, near-abstract photography, yes. I'm happier with what I created that surprising day than I've been with pretty much any other "wildlife" I've shot. Which isn't a lot. I'm more about "nature" than things that move and make me chase them.
The "flow" of the experience grew from the surprise of stumbling across such bounty, and the joy and immediacy of seeing others' reaction to what I was shooting, WHILE I was shooting.
It hit home to me stronger than ever--how the images I shot could open portals for others to see things that wouldn't be there, unless I pictured them first.
I work hard to "see" first, then shoot.
Don't get me wrong. I'm anxious and itching to capture something from the instant I pick up my camera.
And I'm an instinctive photographer, always will be. I don't prowl a shoot endlessly, designing what I'll do the way others I admire can. I work my way into images and shots, experimenting and trying to understand what's there, calling me to capture it.
But I'm seeing, looking, feeling my way into each opportunity.
I'm "me" in that capture I'm taking, breathing in and exhaling out and relaxing and finding my place.
I'm discovering captures, my way, so that viewers might hopefully find theirs.
We're painters with light.
Our viewers add to that creation with their imaginations.
Our challenge as photographers is to capture the magic we see in a way that inspires others to greater wonder.
Together, we hunt for beauty, celebrating the wondrous world we share.