Over Ansel Adams|
by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
| Our family
albums are filled with shots that are off center, too dark, too light, blurry,
and -- because I am physically and psychologically incapable of throwing anything
away ever -- our albums include accidental shots of the ceiling, the floor and
purse innards. But recently I've become interested, in a casual way, in photography.
I have three friends at work who are serious about it. They own light meters and
expensive lenses and multiple cameras. One has a home studio and state of the
art digital equipment and does really lovely portraits. Another has his own dark
room and does all his own developing. Listening to them chat rhapsodically about
light and shadow, gray values and the tangy scent of developing solution inspired
me. I like to think that I am sensitive to the beauty around me, that I can appreciate
the intricacy and symmetry of nature. So how hard could it be? After all, if you
can see it, can't you photograph it? I was resolved, inspired, eager to start.|
I am not a stranger to hobbies. In the past my downfall has been impatience
peppered with a soupcon of know-it-all-ivness. I do O.K. until I hit an instruction
like "stir continuously" or "let dry completely." And sewing! That
involved actual HOWLING! The neighbor lady came over to see if she should call
911. The word "piping" still makes me break out in a cold sweat. So, I thought
photography might be perfect for me. See. Point. Remember "composition." Snap.
Done! And what better opportunity to start than on our vacation to Padre Island
National Seashore? I couldn’t wait!
The scene: smokey green waves rimmed
with creamy foam curling to the shore. Towering cumulus clouds purple and fat
with rain. A flock of twelve brown pelicans hanging motionless and majestic in
the air, their long beaks in profile, looking like pterosaurs poised against a
Jurassic skyscape. See. Point. Consider composition. Snap.
An amorphous gray background with, in the foreground, something brown and scraggly.
Something Medium Brown #23, in fact. Aha! Nice tight close-up of my hair blowing
across the lense.
The scene: Laguna Madre at dawn, the landscape stark
and foreign to my eyes. On the smooth silvery water of the lagoon six huge American
White Pelicans float regally like ancient Egyptian gods, their eyes encircled
with vivid lemon yellow. I move slowly into the (cold, cold, cold) water, my feet
sinking into the (slimy, slimy, slimy) mud. Thirty feet away and the Pelecanus
erythrorhynchos are unconcerned. I look through the camera and advance stealthily,
nibbling away the distance between us and still they show a grand indifference
to me. Onward I slip through the water, my eye pressed to the camera. Six heads
turn toward me looking down long beaks with exquisite disdain. See. Point. Consider
the possibility I have just put my foot down on something that is slimy in a different
way than the mud. Snap. The elegant birds bunch their mighty shoulders and rise
into the air as I snatch my foot up off the WRIGGLING sliminess beneath it and
plunge into the 67 degree water, swallowing (into my stomach!) a large
mouthful of hyper-saline yumminess, camera arm extended.
An extreme close-up with good natural color of the fingernail of my ring finger,
showing quite sharp detail.
The scene: the bowels of the mighty aircraft
carrier USS Lexington. A long, long hallway broken at regular intervals by elongated
oval doorways, one after another into the distance. A scene which conveyed at
once the vast size of the ship and the cramped spaces within it. See. Point. Consider
composition. Move 3/4 of an inch to the right. Snap.
The result? A shot
of a seasick green doorway opening onto darkness. I did however, get a crystal
clear shot of my son Andy in front of an anti-aircraft gun manually creating boy
cleavage and red in the face from giggling. I think it conveys a powerful message
and a true one. No matter what, the boys in my family are goobers, and always
will be. The only saving grace is that it wasn't video, because the giggling had
it's usual happy side effect with Andy. There was tooting involved. Which made
him giggle more. With predictable results.
I was tempted to sidle away
and tag along with another passing tourist family and to pretend that I was with
them. Until their little boy posed in front of the gun and, grinning, brought
his hands up to his chest. See. Point. Consider the fruitlessness of it all. Snap.
Next hobby, please!
© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"