When I walk down the drive to fetch the paper I
often invariably fall into a zombie state—if I haven’t read the lead stories the night before on the internet, they seize my attention and then I’m surprised when I look up and have walked back to the house. Today, it was the mail that put me into auto-pilot, except that partway some thing grabbed my eye and I stooped to pick it up.
A leaf, dry and browned by summer’s unyielding heat, reflected the afternoon’s smoky sunlight just so, and I knew what I’d do with it as soon as I saw it. I keep a piece of black material handy for photographing small items (I’ve a white one, too), which the errant leaf soon rested on. After that I placed it to my liking and snapped a few frames with the NEX 7—a Pentax-M 100 macro did the honors optically.
I could have picked up any of the dozens (thousands) of similar leaves that have come down, but only this one caught my attention. That’s the key: attention. Photographers speak often of vision, of seeing, but what we actually observe—those things that come to our attentions—why did we choose those? A coincidence, I began reading Alexandra Horowitz’s On Looking-Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes yesterday, another book that examines the How? Why? of the brain’s workings; I’m barely into the first section, where Ms. Horowitz sets off on a walk with her toddler son, soon realizing that what he sees varies greatly from what she attends to. Hopefully, her other walks will be equally interesting, but I’m not seeking epiphanies—I’ll be pleased if I learn how to nudge my own attention in new directions, even if they’re in plain sight.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats