Fortunately, technology has come along to help. How they do it for free I don’t know, but sites like Google Photos, Amazon Prime, and Flickr will allow you to store photos (smaller versions) in their cloud for free! Not only that, they have amazing algorithms that will find faces, scenes, etc. for you. Now if they could only help me decide which to hang on the wall.
While most of my photos are of family, I also love photographing just about anything of interest or beauty. It could be a valley of olive trees in Tuscany, a moon rising over a lake in Missouri, a sunset in Arizona, or a patch of tar in the shape of a heart on a footpath in Florence. It’s a challenge to see how close one can come to capturing the beauty of an object or scene that can change with the light in just seconds.
While some say beauty is over-hyped, especially regarding people, I think beauty is underappreciated and under-noticed. Not all beauty is obvious. You have to be aware of its existence by looking for it in all places at all times. It could be the beauty of color, of symmetry, or of a moment frozen in time. Unfortunately, we are all too often wrapped up in a tight, narrow place bounded by self-interests and anxiety, further bounded by a screen, earphones, and/or minor gossip.
Self-interest isn’t bad, per se, it’s just restrictive. Self-interest is taking a selfie in the bathroom mirror. It lacks context or meaning. However, a selfie of you holding your newborn grandchild in a rocking chair? That has depth! That has meaning! There is an awareness of how quickly this moment will pass and how irreplaceable it will someday be. The beauty may not be in your wrinkled face of age or the wrinkled face of a newborn. The beauty is in the moment! And moments do have a beauty of their own.
Most people look at a photo and see a person, scene, or story. So do I, but I also think of myself as being in someone else’s head, behind their eyes, seeing what they saw at the instant the button was pushed. Whenever I look at any photo of a scene I have ever taken, I can almost always remember how I was feeling at the time and why the scene caught my attention. I can even remember the sounds of the moment. It could be the crunch frozen grass as I search for the perfect angle, or birds singing or squawking overhead in the mornings. This is because I am totally in the moment with no conscious regrets of the past nor fears of the future.
The photo that accompanies this article was taken just yesterday as I write this. It was my birthday and because it was a Thursday, I was babysitting three of my preschool grandchildren as I do every Tuesday and Thursday. It was an oddly warm day for the middle of a Missouri February and I decided we would have lunch and play in the neighborhood park. Next to the playground is a hill which was too irresistible to my five-year-old grandson, Ryan. He had to conquer it! Of course, his four-year-old cousin Rosie and two-year-old sister Juliette had to follow. I didn’t have my Nikon SLR with me at the playground. Lunch and three rambunctious kids were all I could handle. But I did have my trusty smartphone which takes incredible photos considering it’s a phone!
Watching them run around was such a joy. If you don’t get pleasure from watching kids have fun, you have to be dead inside. As Ryan and Juliette ran under the framing of a tree, with the hill in the foreground and the clouded sky in the background, I saw this as a moment to cherish and snapped about three photos. It wasn’t the only photos I took at the playground. The others were cute photos of the kids playing, especially the one of Ryan and Ava on the slide. Ava is in Ryan’s preschool class and just happened to be at the playground also. They seem to like each other quite a bit! Ava always says hello and goodbye to Ryan when I take him to his school.
But the picture under a tree on a hill is the one that will seal this day in my memory. It’s unfortunate that Rosie isn’t in it, but I’ll remember her running around barefoot in her Valentines-week red outfit and her curly brown hair framing her blushed cheeks. This photo, years from now will put me back there. Ryan in his “Future X-Wing Pilot” outfit. Rosie playing with her red-headed, bespeckled friend McKenzie, and Juliette wanting to be pushed on the swing set for what seemed like hours.
That picture was what I saw with my own eyes at that moment, never to be honestly duplicated. While that may seem a little melodramatic to some, it’s magical to me. I’m overwhelmingly thankful for the gifts I receive like that time with the kids, although exhausting. And I’m also thankful that I can enjoy the moment over and over again through a simple photo. And without the exhaustion!
It’s not an award-winning photo, it's not even clear, but it is a precious and beautiful memory for me, caught with attention, appreciation of its value, and the click of a button. How many have I missed?
A few of my past photos.