With my students recently, we’ve been discussing the power of noticing. Noticing starts out small: we begin by taking out the cameras and searching for colors. After that, I asked them to go back and see if they can fill the frame with the color. I have them go back yet again to see what would happen if they changed their perspective. Would it would make them notice something different about what they’d chosen? Almost every time, my students pictures improve dramatically from the 1st to the 3rd. The art of noticing takes lots of practice.
These exercises I do with my students always draw me back to those years when I was the student in my first photography class years and years ago. (I won’t tell you how many!) By taking those classes, I felt like I had been inducted into a secret society where the members got a special set of glasses that allowed us to notice things that others missed. I saw photos that I should be taking EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t turn it off. (Because, that’s the blessing and the curse – once you start noticing, you can’t STOP noticing…) I started looking and practicing, creating and refining, so that eventually what I saw with my mind could be recreated with my camera – maybe even enhanced by my camera. I felt like I was put on a mission to show everyone what I was noticing. “LOOK! See this amazing thing that you probably missed because you weren’t looking!” Thinking about it now, it seems a little juvenile and a bit naive, because I was certainly missing plenty of things that other people had been noticing, too…
The blessing of noticing is that I see and sometimes anticipate the moments where something special is going to happen. The child running off the field straight into their parent’s proud embrace after a hard fought victory. The hands intertwined as the couple walks ahead of me on the path through the dappled tree light. The way the shadows and the light play off the rippling water at the beach when the wind picks up.
The curse of noticing is that I am never really “off-duty” as a photographer. So many moments have come and gone over the years that I’ve cussed and stomped because I missed them with my lens. My archives are filled with the over-shooting zeal of a photographer that has not yet honed her style or refined her appetite for shooting moments. As I continue to practice, however, my vault of photos is not growing at as rapid a rate. Not because I’ve stopped noticing or because I’ve lost my fervor, but because I’ve just gotten better at resisting the urges to pick up my camera every time. I can still appreciate the moment and breathe it in so it wraps itself in my brain rather than being captive inside my computer screen. But every once in awhile, I’m in the right place at the right time with my camera in hand to give someone else the gift of noticing.
Really, I think the act of noticing has made me a better person overall. If you recall from earlier this month, we’ve been discussing Simple Kindness and how a small act can change someone’s day. I believe that it all starts with noticing. When you start to look for it, you’ll start to see kindness and small acts of bravery everyday. The man that grabbed the empty cart in the grocery store parking lot and put it in the cart return instead of letting it take up a parking space. The woman who entertained the cranky toddler in front of her in line while his mother was paying. The crossing guard that put his body in front of the moving car to keep the child safe… When I start noticing, I see that there is so much to be grateful for everyday.
Hoping that you’re noticing, too – Angie