Perception Filter

I am completely aware that I am living in a golden time, my son’s infancy. I reckon its more of a gift to the us the parents at this stage because he is still so young he won’t remember any of his beautiful beginning.

My wife and I have been always careful to be present, because complacency would have it that we dwell on all the wrong things until he leaves the nest and leaves us with avoidable regret.

Basically, enjoy it all because the moments pass by so quickly. “100 Ways To Take Better Photographs” by Michael Busselle in chapter 7 is “use a fast shutter speed to freeze movement”  which in practice ends up freezing moments. It’s one of the skills I’ve gotten good at. Since starting this photographic crusade.

Chapter 11 of “100 Ways To Take Better Photographs” by Michael Busselle is “use a warm-up filter”. It says something along the lines of our eyes compensate for the variation in colour but the picture of the same shot we’ve seen with our eyes will be faithfully captured by the camera.

My wife and argued this point because she said she looked paler than what she was in many shots and I agreed saying I looked as distorted and angular as a minecraft character. Looks and best angles aside, we both agreed we were happy that we had captured so much of his budding months.

Elizabeth Pantley’s “Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night the no_cry sleep solution” has a very sweet paragraph that encapsulates the whole experience. It reads as follows : “If you can, and when you can, put your baby down so that he learns she is able to sleep alone, as well as in your arms. And when you don’t put her down, hold her with your heart, too, and relish every gurgle, flutter and little sighing breath. Trust me when I say, ‘You will miss this’. You will. Even the dark, exhausted nights will take on a certain romance in your memories, and they’ll bubble to the surface when your ‘baby‘ drives off in his first car, graduates from school, gets married, and has his own baby. “

I must admit it’s all still vivid right now fo us, the rose tinted glasses have  been delivered to the wrong address (lol). I guess that can’t be helped, we’re in the midst of it right now. But I do feel as though snippets of moments are being weaved together for that moment of nostalgia that runs across the mind like a cinematic montage from one of those warm and fuzzy coming of age films we love to watch. Whether we appreciate how we look in the shots or not the film is still rolling, life, by God’s grace, is still ongoing.

It’s partly why I avoid going to the cinema on multiple occasions, I prefer to watch deeply once, like life, you only get one go round. The closest thing we have to a rewatch are our reminiscent fragments of media and memorabilia, and of course, our pictures.

And just like all the less than well reviewed films that gain a cult following and appreciation, our less than flattering snaps of the magnificent moments will grow in value and richness, as the past pays that present forward with something close to time travel, our pictures- the crystallised fragments of yesterday, suddenly a lot shinier than we remember.

Outside The Box

The sky finally cracked open. It’s been raining on and off for about nine hours and it’s showing signs of only getting stronger. Not the best weather for a glorious photo. In an empty charity shop with fifteen minutes to go I mull over the tenets of good photography and while I have an idea, I don’t have concrete points of reference to refer to. Scouring my head for something that isn’t really there is tiresome. I figured it was time to think outside the box.

It’s a good thing I’m at work, it’s the one place that has more helpful books than our local library or our house. If I’m going to learn about A-class photography, this will be the place that has a book on it.

I unashamedly acknowledge that I’m a predictable creature of habit. Most people would just have consulted a friend for basic pointers. I prefer consulting books. In my defence I do actually know a chap who happens to be an exceptional photographer. Unfortunately he’s just as fascinated by my wife’s picturesque architecture as I am so he was an automatic no.

I would ask my wife but that defeats the purpose of this photographic crusade. Her best friend Betty used to work down the road but has moved to Wales. Betty, and her work colleague Matt, had helped me price some cameras that had been donated to the store, with great aplomb.

I planned to ask Matt for advice in person over a drink (which I would buy him) because after two years of living here it had occurred to me that I hadn’t bothered to make any friends outside of work. Us creatures of habit get comfortable with a reliable cycle of predictable events. It’s why I work so well with timetables; there’s barely any room for error. Unfortunately it’s also easy to become stale, devoid of an adventurous spirit and overall less spontaneous.

I attempt to close up for the day, bang on 5pm but a lady, despite my disgruntled countenance, has forced her way into the shop as if letting herself into her own house and proceeds to browse. I take a deep breath, carry the sign in from the rain and lock the door behind me for fear of other petulant intruders avoiding the downpour. While she shops I take things upstairs and mull over what sort of text book might serve me best.

The lady was prompt and cheerful and left about five minutes later having spent a good amount of money. I was happy I hadn’t insisted she leave or I would have missed a sale. Sometimes not sticking so closely to the timetable pays off. Like the shopper I needed a book that was straight to the point. Poignant, purposeful and acute.

Having cashed up I was ready to go home, so I ventured to the book corner in hopes of finding something to fulfill this specific need. I often joked that our charity shop was secretly a genie; granting wishes of customers and staff alike from overeheard mumblings and half prayers. True to form I found exactly what I needed.

The book was titled “100 Ways To Take Better Photographs” by Michael Busselle. Honestly I didn’t need one hundred ways. Five would have been perfectly adequate but now was not the time to be snarky. I had found the perfect book! Now all I needed to do was read and practice!

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Picture Perfect

Laying next to our four month old watching him sleep peacefully, I thought, “my wife would take a brilliant picture of us right now!”. That wasn’t true at all, it being pitch black in the room and all, save for an over-eager street lamp awkwardly positioned outside our window. Second, I was somewhat skeptical about how well night-mode actually works on modern phones.

Gripes aside, my wife could be a professional photographer, she’s that good. she knows how to capture a moment, those wonderful seconds that are like distilled liquid diamond drops, invaluable. It’s something of an art and she is an artist. In contrast, I actively avoid taking pictures, I think the hanging around, posing to fit into a frame irritates me : which makes no sense of course because that for the most part is how you get a picture taken. I get restless and want to get on with the actual act of making memories as opposed to calcifying them on paper or a digital white screen.

I guess that also explains why I hate passport picture taking. It’s bad enough you can’t even look happy in any of the snaps but you have to fit your weird shaped head into an equally weird shaped oval, before being asked to sit still, while holding an impossibly uncomfortable position. It’s utterly exhausting.

My wife complained that I hadn’t taken very good pictures of her in comparison to the masterpieces she had taken. She pointed out the way I’d cut off a foot here, and not quite centred the shot there and completely botched that one. I have a much better phone than a year ago and while it has improved my photographic endeavours and not left them completely to my more competent wife, I have still found myself getting frustrated at the complaint that she simply doesn’t have enough photos with our infant son, who is looking more and more like a toddler each day.

I explained that helping her survive brutal breast feeding woes, sleep deprivation, washing baby bottles, changing nappies and keeping baby and mum well fed was a surprisingly physical and mentally exhausting challenge. The last thing that comes to mind is to get the perfect shot of what is often untempered chaos. And yet she always seemed to… a diamond in the midst of all the chaos. I agreed. There was always time, there has to be, because one day we won’t have the time because he’ll be all grown up.

It made me realise I hadn’t been as present as perhaps I had always prided myself on being. Perhaps that was the problem , pride. A presumption that he’ll be small for a little while longer and wasn’t I doing enough without setting up a mini photo shoot everytime a moment seemingly presented itself. Perhaps some of our son’s best moments were happening now and I was a little too in my head about the functioning day-to-day to notice him in all his budding glory…perhaps.

And so this was how I came up with the idea that night, looking at our infant son, who was currently wearing a 6-9 month baby grow and making it look good. He was already so big. What if I took one good picture a day? What if I took the perfect shot each day for a year, Just mother and child? I wouldn’t have to worry about not being in them because she already took so many photos of us anyway. At the bare minimum we would have 365 perfect pictures. Or better still, present. They would be present pictures. As present as I was with him, waiting for his mother, to come to bed.

A combination of several attempts.

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