Photography: Learning to See

In my last entry I mentioned that during the darkest and most painful periods in my life, I have picked up different hobbies and interests which have taught me valuable lessons about life. In the last couple of years, I have discovered a new passion: photography.

The word “photography” literally means “writing with light”. By definition, photography isn’t about producing a nice picture. It is a form of communicating, a form of writing if you will. It is using an image to communicate a message. Sometimes the message hits you in the face like a stiff punch. Sometimes it wants you to slow down and ponder. Other times it captures a “moment” and invites you to imagine the rest of the ‘story’. But regardless, good photography is about communication. While spoken communication goes from my lips to your ears, photography goes from my eyes to yours.

My interest in photography goes beyond the technical “shop talk” like focal lengths and shutter speeds. (Having said that, I am still a big sucker for the newest and latest gadget that promises to turn me into a Pulitzer Prize winner. Give me a break, I am a guy!) I got into photography because it teaches me to do something that most of us take for granted: Photography teaches me how to see.

Seeing, I have learned, is a decisive, deliberate act. It involves 2 choices: You choose what you see, and you choose what not to see. You make that choice by manipulating the lens on your camera. You zoom in and out to decide what you include and exclude in your image.

A few days ago I caught myself thinking of the past, about the way I was hurt by the church and felt myself sinking into despair. I happened to have my camera with me and I took it out to take some pictures of flowers. The camera forces me to focus and see the beauty around me: I saw the brilliant colors, the perfect texture and shape of each petal, and it occured to me that in this world of ugliness, there is beauty. What I see depends on what lens I decide to look through.

Here are a few shots I took that day: http://picasaweb.google.com/alfred.lam/ADayAtTheNursery

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