Sunday, November 12, 2006

Teaching my eyes to see

For a period of time when my children were very young, I didn't own a camera. That fact has led to a thousand apologies from me to my younger daughter for the lack of pictures proving her existence prior to the age of three. There was also a brief, camera-less period in the early 80s. I left my camera in San Franciso then, along with the film record of my trip to that beautiful place.

For most of the rest of my adult life, I've owned a camera of one kind or another, and I realize now that I've always been stingy with it. The camera rarely came out of its case except for special occasions: holidays, first days of school, vacations, visits with distant family members, and visits to tourist attractions.

Don't get me wrong; I treasure those photos and spend time looking at them regularly. They're the first things I'd grab in case of a fire (other than my dogs, obviously). The memories connected to them bring me immense joy. It's just that the pleasure in the pictures is associated only with the people and the places; there was nothing at all special about the experience of taking the photographs.

My first digital camera, purchased in February of this year, changed everything. Maybe it's the instant gratification of seeing the photos immediately or the freedom of knowing it isn't wasteful to take as many shots as necessary to get a good one. Maybe it's the zoom lens that lets me see detail that was never visible before. Perhaps it's the ability to rotate a digital photo a few degrees left or right to straighten it up or the ease with which I can crop out the ugly, unwanted portions.

Whatever it is, I'm in love with it. These days I'm all about light and shadow, lines and angles, softness and sharpness, and color, vivid color that distinguishes one shade of green from another and helps me see individual trees instead of a single patch of woods.

I took my camera to work with me two days this week so I could photograph any octagons I might find. Along the way, I found so much more. It's been there all along, but without the camera I didn't bother to look for it.

This bright red barn, in use as a kennel now, is hard not to notice. In fact it always catches my eye as I pass it. What I never saw until this past week is the row of trees framing it so beautifully.

If you had asked me whether or not there was a vacant lot across the street from my office, I wouldn't have remembered it. I've always looked at the buildings on either side of the lot. When my camera was with me, though, I stepped out of the office, locked the door, and turned to see the setting sun painting this wide space with Autumn colors.

Exiting I-10, waiting at the stoplight, I looked to my left and saw these little trees silhouetted directly under a tiny white jet trail: a photo waiting to be taken.

This one is my very favorite. A big, new house was built about three years ago on a corner lot where I turn left at least twice a day. I've always focused on the house as I approach the corner, then the road as I make the turn. This week, trying to see things differently, I looked behind the house and saw trees and light and this wonderfully rustic garden shed.

I'm a novice in the photographic arena, and it's thrilling to think about the possibilities that will grow with every new thing I learn. Who knew I'd find a new adventure at this stage of my life? I feel like Dorothy. I'm off to see the wizard and a whole lot more.


  1. i love these photos. i seldom go out the front door with out my camera. when my children were small i didn't have money for photos but i have several because my sisters would take photos and see that i got some of them. the cat on my blog would love to get my chickens, when they were small the cat tried everyway they could to get in the pen.

  2. Velvet, you've gone and made me homesick again! Just lovely pics.

    I have been into photography for years and won a few contests and had quite a few published (locally) when I was in my teens and in college. Burning through a roll just meant more chances for a good shot.

    But I do admit to so much more freedom with the digital. And the editing software available makes it more delicious.

    I have always been aware how photography has changed my view of the world. I notice the strangest things that most people never see. I'm certain this is due to taking so many photographs.

    Keep it up... you have a good eye!


  3. Beautiful photos! Isn't it fun to look at everything around you as art instead of just the stuff you see everyday? You really do have a wonderful eye for composition. Thanks for sharing your piece of Louisanna - Carmon

  4. Wow. Your pictures don't look to me like a novice took them - they are beautiful.

    I too didn't take as many pictures of my kids, when they were young, as I would have liked to - due to the cost of developing them.

    I love the digital camera...but mostly so that I can delete pics. I take a lot of them, and love to, but am not good at it. Just don't have an 'eye' for it, I guess. Wish I did.

  5. Patsy, your habit of taking the camera with you when you go out is a good one. I need to cultivate that same habit.

    Creekhiker, I visited your site again and it appears to me that you're artistic in a wide variety of ways. Your oil paintings are lovely! Oh, and thanks for the generously worded link to my site; I'll link to yours before bedtime.

    Carmon, it was some of your gorgeous photos that made me salivate for a digital camera of my own. I got the camera, but I haven't stopped drooling over your photos.

    Jackie, don't sell yourself short; you've been posting some beautiful travel photos.

  6. My daughter takes hundreds of pictures of her children and can't understand why there are so few of her as a child. I apologize just as you do.

    Of course the few pictures we have of her as a baby are treasures beyond compare whereas the millions of photos of her children are hardly ever looked at - there are just too many.

    By the way, the picture of the shed and the huge tree - that's Louisiana to me! Nice.

  7. MMMMMmm Velvet, I love the pictures. I too try to see the world with a different eye. I made my DH stop the car in the middle of the street this week just so I could take a picture of the clouds during a sunset. Your pictures are us more !!

  8. Well Velvet - it's pretty hard to take a *bad* photo when you live someplace like this! I'm hoping my 'Dear Santa' letter got heard though and I get a high speed digital with a long range zoom lens for Christmas so I'm not trying to photograph outdoors with a camera meant for jewelry! Carmon

  9. Great photos! Don't let your kids know about this new obsession, though-they'll never let you forget your previous lack of photographic enthusiasm.

    Digital cameras are wonderful, I especially love how I can see right away if I got a good shot or a bad shot instead of waiting for the film to be developed and being disappointed. There's nothing worse than being on vacation and when you get home, the photos come back terrible, and you can't go back and do them over.

  10. I used to take hundreds of pictures of my kids and other 90 we had a house fire and I lost almost all of my photos. Since then I just do not take them with the same zeal as I used too. I also have very few pictures hanging on my walls anymore. With the digital camera I very seldom get pictured developed and I do not think the ones you print at home will last more than a few years...I think pictures you actually hold in your hands are becoming a thing of the past

  11. Love the photos Velvet and know just how you feel about seeing things anew. With a digital camera it is a whole new world, when I go out, my camera is always with me, snung in my handbag (purse) as essential as my wallet.

  12. Those are lovely photos! The trees by the fence are stunning, and I love the light and shadow on the top of the shed in the last one. You may be new to the arena, as you say, but I think you hava a great eye!

  13. See, now you're hooked! ;-)

  14. My youngest daughter thinks she was adopted, for the same reason. The kids got me a digital camera for mother's day last year and I can't put the darn thing down. Your pictures are awesomely good, I have yet to fall in love with picture taking.

  15. They are all beautiful, but I think the first one, with the barn is a prizewinner - you just have to submit it somewhere! Yes, I also love that I can take a whole bunch of pictures - and just keep what I like. No agonizing over "should I take it this way, or that?"

    Sorry your cheerleader stumbled over the weekend - I still don't have the time to give your "Challenge Day" post the attention it deserves yet. You are amazing - I'm lucky if I can crank out one post a week!

  16. Thanks so much for your encouraging words. I hope you'll forgive me for not answering each comment individually. I got behind last night because I was engaged in a bloody fistfight with Blogger. This morning I'm licking my wounds and preparing to do battle with Baton Rouge drive-time traffic. Gotta go to the dentist before work.

  17. Stunning photos....what a beautiful moment in time....=)

  18. you are really good Velvet. I love the barn shot. I like barn shots with overgrown greens. There is something so pure about it.


  19. I love seeing pictures of local everyday things, it helps get a feel of where people live etc. which helps when you live 7000 miles.

    I too love my digital camera, and as its small I carry it everywhere.

    Good photos, thanks.

  20. Velveeta, those pictures are awesome! I'm certainly no expert but you've captured some magnificient moments in time.

    The pic of the little trees at the exit is my favorite. You should tell people it's a shooting star in stead of an airplane! Little fibs never hurt!

    Great Job!


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