Changing perspectives.

I had a photo coach today.

During our visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens, my first-grader made it a priority to identify several potential photographic subjects for me. Besides the current exhibit of giant nature-themed Lego creations by artist Sean Kenney, the gardens have no shortage of pretty blooms and sweeping lines, all of which attract the folks with cameras slung around their necks.

While sitting together in the shade on a couple of tree stumps, she looked up and pointed out the “ceiling” of this spiral metal arbour, the bars of which were gripped firmly by what I guessed was wisteria, or some other woody climbing vine that seems to have no mercy for its supports.

“Take a picture of that,” she suggested.

I did.

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I thought maybe she’d appreciate the opportunity to execute her own ideas (and, truthfully, I had reached my limit of being coached), so I handed her the camera.

This resulted in several close-up and very unflattering photos of my face, but also some very reasonable shots of the Mr. and I together (of which we have very few), a row of tomato plants, a tree branch, a lily, and a pinwheel.

Through what she chose to photograph, how she framed her shots, and her complete lack of hesitation or self-consciousness, I was reminded how compelling it is to see through the eyes of a child.

Unless what you’re seeing is a close-up of my nostrils. In my opinion, they’re not that compelling.

I spy… something red.

I had so much fun during my last I Spy photo excursion that I did it again. This time, instead of fixating on circles, I had eyes only for the colour red.

I spent about an hour and a half downtown today, and almost no one looked at me strangely for snapping photos of fire hydrants and discarded take-out containers.

As before, giving myself a theme (and a time limit) to capture a series of photos allowed me to practice observation and composition but also encouraged me to avoid overthinking. Sometimes I just need to get out of my own way.

Bonus… this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Collage. Perfect! Here it is:

I spy… something round.

I’m pleased with myself: I did an exercise. The kind of exercise I like, i.e., the kind that doesn’t involve a lot of physical exertion. I spent about an hour walking around a few city blocks, looking for circles. If I saw something circle-shaped, I snapped it – without my usual contemplation and deliberation about camera settings and angles and so on. I wanted to practice observation and do it without overthinking.

I hadn’t tried this kind of speedy, themed exercise before, and capturing a series of shots focused on an easy shape or colour seemed like a good place to start. I really got into it, and didn’t (for once) feel self-conscious about whether people thought me odd for squatting in alleyways to make photos of manhole covers.

Come to think of it, aside from being hyper-aware of spherical items during that hour, I don’t really remember being aware of too much else. Which may beg the question of whether I was actually practicing good observational skills if I had eyes for only circles? (Don’t worry, Mom, I’m exaggerating a bit… I obeyed all crosswalks and made sure no shady people were following me. Safety first.)

No matter. Finding circles was fun. (Suggestions for future themed exercises are always welcome, by the way.)

Well, I can’t promise fine art here, but if you have some time on your hands, or if you’re looking for a reason to delay scrubbing the bathrooms, writing a term paper or going to the gym, feel free to take a scroll through my collection of Circles in the City:

It’s not you, it’s me.

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The Mr. and I have a long-running joke about my obliviousness. Apparently, at least in certain situations, I’m known for my lack of observational skill.

He teases that I’d fail to notice even obvious occurrences taking place around me, such as, for example, an exploding building or an approaching mob of evil clowns.

I agree that I may be slightly challenged in this regard. Sometimes I accidentally ignore people I know when I unexpectedly encounter them in public places. More than once I’ve had to apologize after the fact to friends and neighbours who have waved to me from afar, only to have me return their greeting with nothing but a vacant, unintentionally grouchy expression.

In my defence: I (usually) have no ill will against these people I’m supposed to recognize. I’m simply lost in my own little world. Evidently, when I’m busy doing something, such as walking or thinking – especially walking and thinking – my brain is only capable of a limited amount of sensory input. Friends and acquaintances, I assure you: my failure to notice you is nothing personal. I apologize for being rude.

(Strangely, though, I’m very observant when it comes to, say, the whereabouts of my library books, which household bills are due when, and whether the bird-feeder needs refilling. Make of that what you will.)

Through my dabbling in photography, I’m learning that the skill of observation can be improved. (Thankfully, because those evil clowns are super creepy and I’d like to notice them in enough time to get far, far away.)

Do you ever notice something for the first time and then begin see it everywhere?

Lines, for example. I’ve never, ever noticed lines as much as I do now, because I want to record them with the camera. Lines in the roads, lines in the trees, lines in the clouds. The grid of windows on a building, the curl of my daughter’s hair, the sweeping curves of hosta leaves emerging from the earth. (A-ha! The accompanying photo to this post! You knew I’d get there. Eventually.)

Being observant is being present. And I’m sure I’m not alone in the challenge of being present – really and truly aware – more often. If photography is helping me slow down and sharpen some of my senses – at least the art of seeing, of noticing – perhaps there’s hope for me.

If I smile and wave back next time you see me at the mall, you’ll know it’s working.


(I’m pleased to contribute this ribbed hosta to Tuesdays of Texture, a weekly feature over at De Monte y Mar.)