I love photography and I love running. I am just now getting back into shape after a longer-than-I-thought break from running. Most of the time, because I am covering very short distances from home as I stumble and wheeze into fitness, I don’t bring anything with me, other than a house key tied to my …
In elementary school, I played piano and basketball. My mom, even with a stretched budget, always made sure we had money for piano lessons, and the fees for the elementary basketball team. I remember enjoying them both a lot, but lost some of my passion when the emphasis was on practice rather than play.
Play is something we all need more of, no matter our age. For me, photography is just that, play. Photography is something I long wanted to do, but felt shy and intimidated by it. Despite having people that I could have asked questions of, and perhaps even borrowed a camera from, when I was in high school and college, I stayed quiet about my closeted photography curiosity. It wasn’t until my purchase of a digital SLR well into adulthood that I felt freed up by the auto mode and all of my mistakes with the forgiveness of digital. It took years before I got off auto mode, but in play, I didn’t really care. I still enjoy the play, even as my knowledge base slowly grows.
In all of the photography advice I have ever received, the most common is to always bring your camera. You never know when you might come across something that you want to aim your camera at, and the comfort of having a camera around your neck or tucked in your pocket or bag is joyous. I love the spontaneity of being able to take a picture anywhere. You can find small or substantial moments and you never know when they will pop up. It could be a cloud formation or the way that a shadow hits the sidewalk as you are walking to the mailbox. It might be a bird in mid-flight or your child running. That “decisive moment” that Henri Cartier-Bresson described is much easier to find when you have your camera with you.
Okay, it might be blasphemy to write this for a photography website. The other night, on a beautiful spring evening, I took Jupiter the dog for a little walk before dinner. I wanted to enjoy that prime space between winter and full-on spring. I usually grab a camera, even when it’s for a quick walk, but this night I deliberately left the camera behind. The time had just changed, and so we had that extra hour of daylight that all of the clock-switching nonsense aims for. We walked past the neighborhood park and turned onto a wide sidewalk trail heading east. The huge full moon was just rising and peeking out over the houses and treeline. It was absolutely gorgeous, beautiful reds and oranges reflecting the sunset hues in the opposite sky. I paused, and so did Jupiter.
(The idea of an ode to my first “real” and favorite camera is inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Ordinary Things. I love that we can pay allegiance to those beautiful, ordinary items of life.) They say that you can never forget your first: your first love, or, in this case, your first camera. Technically, the Nikon D40 is not my first camera, but my fifth, but it is my first “real” camera, the first one with an interchangeable lens. It’s the camera that I have had the longest, almost 15 years, and for a baker’s dozen of years it was the only camera that I owned. It’s the camera that feels familiar, comforting, and reassuring in my hand. It’s the camera that I reached for this morning as I poured coffee into a mug, pulled on hat and gloves, and grabbed the leash to walk the dog on a gloomy, grey January day.