Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Life Lessons from Photography

Now, I'm definitely not any kind of professional photography, and I've never had any formal training in the art. After years of taking photos, I mostly follow my own cues and intuition about framing and lighting. This post, however, is not about the technical (or even aesthetic) side of photography. Rather, I've discovered that many of the lessons I've learned from taking photographers apply to life in general. 

1. Look up (literally). Every day, as we busy ourselves along with our routines, running from place to place, we keep our eyes straight in front of us to where we want to go (if they aren't stuck on our phones). We miss out on the beauty that is right on top of us, from gorgeous clouds in clear blue skies to intricate rooftops and window shutters. Take some time to look up, and feel that tremendous sense of awe as you realize how large the skies are, and how small in comparison our individual existence is to the wide universe.

2. Life is fleeting. I don't know how many times I've been disappointed at missing a great photograph because the subject shifted or I was in a moving vehicle. Subjects, especially animals and clouds, don't tend to want to remain mobile for the sole wishes of the photographer. Likewise, life itself flows continuously like a stream - it doesn't come to a standstill, even when we find ourselves stuck at a point in our individual lives. We need to experience the moment and grasp passing opportunities. Situations, emotions, people - they won't last forever.

3. It's in the details. As much as I like seeing and photographing grand temples and vistas, I also derive much pleasure from finding the unexpected beauty that might be right in front of me, like these delicate leaves turning autumnal colors. It's as much about knowing where to look as it is about appreciating the simpler aspects of life. If you can find joy and contentment in your everyday life (and you can, I know it!), you will be much more satisfied with where you are at. Think of the beauty all around you on a ordinary day - the steam rising from soothing cup of tea, crisp and brilliant rays of sunlight though your windows, the crinkly feel of the pages of a used book, a nourishing meal prepared by loved ones.

4. Try a different angle. If I really like a subject, but it just doesn't seem to be working out well, sometimes I will attempt to shot it from a different angle. This might mean squatting down at looking at it from below, or going to a taller vantage point and pointing downwards. Sometimes, just this small change and perspective can make a huge difference in how something will appear. The same principle affects our emotions and judgment regarding a situation. If I'm feeling negative or stressed by an event, I always look for a silver lining. I ask myself, what good can come out of this experience? What can I learn from it? I try my best to see it as an opportunity or learning experience.

5. Don't forget to recharge. I feel a tiny sense of panic whenever I see my camera's battery beeping. Before a long trip, I always make sure to charge my camera fully, and I sometimes will bring along my charger if space permits. We take such good care of our electronic devices and make sure they are well-maintained and charged; we need to make sure to do the same for ourselves. Recharging can mean different things at different situations. Perhaps you need a long afternoon nap after a restless night or a good meal after a long day at work. Some peace and quiet can restore your mind after a chaotic day. Spend more care on yourself than on your belongings - after all, they can be replaced. You can't. 

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