The Gift of Photography

A secret!  I had been told a secret.  A secret that was hard for me to keep.  A secret that filled me with joy and anticipation.

My niece’s husband was going to buy her a camera for her birthday! A camera!  He asked me if I’d be willing to answer any questions she may have about it.  Would I be willing?  Ha!  I could hardly wait for her to ask!  It was her birthday but it felt like I was getting a gift, too. 

They agreed to a road trip to visit.  The guys were going to do manly landscaping things like haul rock while my niece and I participated in a photo walkabout at the zoo with a local photographer.

The Iceman is patient and supportive of my hobby.  He would drive me to the ends of the earth, take me to the middle of nowhere and back, so I could take photos.  I love him for that.  He loves to be outside, so he’s told me he doesn’t mind, but he also doesn’t hold a camera.  While he doesn’t mind waiting while I take 10 photos of something from different angles, I’m not sure he understands why I do.  So, to get to spend a few hours with someone who also shares my love of photography?  It was going to be a fantastic day!

My niece and I got our gear and off we went.  We met with the group outside the zoo entrance, received some basic instructions, then moved as a group through the zoo.   During a stop at a monkey enclosure, there was limited front row space.  I took a couple of photos and then stepped back.  The instructor came up as I was watching the others.  He told me I should squeeze in there, too, get more photos.  I told him no, that today was all about my niece who had just gotten her first camera and I wanted her to have more opportunity at the rail.  We shared a smile of understanding.  There was a new artist among us and we wanted the love of photography to have a chance to grow. 

My niece asked a few questions as we made our way among the animals. I could see her trying different things, different angles, figuring it out.  I let her do her thing, only offering advice when asked.  Between photos, we talked about exposure and composition, about our jobs and life. Other times we walked along in comfortable silence. 

We did the entire circuit of the zoo, the class ended, the instructors made their exit.  My niece suggested we go back to the bears.  And, that was the highlight of the day!  Just as we arrived, the two bears, who had placidly eyed us the first time we went by, decided to wrestle each other.  They seemed to really enjoy showing each other all their teeth, grunting and growling while they pawed each other!  As we stood there at the rail, the only sounds I heard other than the bears were the shutters of our cameras, whirring along as fast as they would go!  A couple of exciting minutes later, it was all over.  I guess they decided to call it a draw as they all but shook hands and ambled off.

A friend who helped me a long when I first picked up a camera told me one of the secrets to a good photo was simply “F11 and be there”.  Such was the case that morning at the bear exhibit.  Some of the best photos of the day happened when we walked up at the precise moment two bears decided it was time for a friendly smack down.

Peter McKinnon did a great video on “The Gift of Photography”, where he encourages people to capture a moment of time in someone’s life and then gift that print, that memory, to them.  What a gift that is! And it’s something we all can do. During this trip I also discovered there are other gifts of photography: relationship, sharing time with each other, talking about a shared interest, investing in each other’s lives.

I’m pretty happy any time I have my camera in hand, but I discovered it makes me just as happy to see things through a new lens, through a new photographer’s eyes, to encourage them as they work to capture the art that only their heart can see.

And now I finally understand why the Iceman happily takes me to the middle of nowhere and back for a photo, why he watches over me while I take photos in the dark, why he cheerfully carries gear and cheers me on.

Priceless.

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