Way back in junior high (in the last century), I learned about photography with 35mm SLR cameras. These were the “real thing.” They were a far cry from the cheap Instamatics that everyone I knew used at the time.
We learned about shutter speeds, f-stops, light meters, focus points, passive and active lighting, shadows, framing, composition, film types, and lenses.
Did we want to capture the action close-up, or in the distance? Blur the action, or stop it? Shadow the subject, or light it? Black and white, or color? Grainy or smooth? Focus on the foreground or the background? Capture the subject from the left, or right?
It didn’t matter if we were photographing a mountain, a flower, a person, or a can of tomatoes. Using all the tools at our disposal, we controlled what happened in each photo.
Don’t even get me started on developing film in a darkroom. We learned about that too. More ways to control the image that appears in the photo. For younger readers, darkrooms are the place where the exposed film was transformed into photos. Using various methods, we could edit an image like you can today in your phone’s photo editor or Photoshop.
The main lesson about all this wasn’t the tools and techniques of photography. It was the realization that the camera was only a tool to capture a moment. That moment, with all its beauty, drama, imperfections, and emotions.
More specifically, the camera captures a feeling that comes from the image and our memory of that feeling. The image is merely a pathway to our feelings about the subject.
We capture moments and feelings every day. Usually without a camera. We control how these moments and feelings appear on the canvas that matters the most. In our heart and in our mind.
If the world seems to be against you, and all you see is ugliness and despair, that’s probably because of the way you’re choosing to see the world.
If everything is amazing and perfect, that’s also a result of the way you’re choosing to see the world.
Neither view is 100% accurate. Reality has its ups and downs. We face challenges and triumphs, victories and defeats, every day.
The key is to understand that we have way more to do with the way these moments are captured and interpreted than anyone or anything in our world.
We control our settings. We control our lenses. We choose where we focus.
Ultimately, we choose how to frame our moments. Not the other way around.
Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash