August 11th, 2008

Handing Over the Reins

One of the strange, if obvious, things about being the person who is expected to take photographs of family occasions is that there aren't that many photographs of me in the archives that are the product of someone else's hand. We have two cameras, but the urge to document my doings is usually not strong enough to pull me into the frame. It's not a priority. Besides, I've become pretty accomplished at composing pictures in which I appear.

Sometimes I'll use the self-timer. Usually, though, I just hold the camera at arm's length and use the judgment I've developed from experience to construct a photograph. I deployed that technique the other day during one of the stops Skylar and I made to look at the view on our drive up to the Sawtooth Mountains:

I like this picture a lot. Skylar is really good -- she has lots of practice -- at not staring straight into the lens, which in this case allowed me to get the looking-in-different directions effect that enhances the visual interest in a composition. And we look as happy as we were.

Frequently, when someone sees me holding the camera at arm's length, they ask whether I would like them to take a photo for me. And I always decline the offer, being sure to thank them for the offer. The other day, though, when a man on a purple Honda motorcycle said he would be willing to snap a shot for us, I went against precedent and said, "Why not?"

As he was getting ready to release the shutter, I wanted to tell him to watch out for the ugliness of the guardrail and to be sure to get as much of the mountains in the distance as he could. But I stopped myself short. The point of letting go is not to hold on.

I was glad to relinquish control for once. It was a good move, too. Later, when we were stopped at a long delay for road construction, the same man who had taken the picture of us got off his bike and walked over to chat for a while. I'm not sure if he would have come over without having shared a moment with us earlier on the drive. And he was an interesting character well worth meeting. How could someone riding the Continental Divide from Mexico to Canada not be?

When I was looking over the photos from the trip to Idaho that Skylar and I made last week, I came across the one the motorcyclist had taken. At first, I bemoaned the way the guardrail bisects the frame, the fact that our hands are cut off. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that giving up control over the camera, however temporarily, was the best move I could have made. Sometimes, it takes giving up the reins to figure out their true value.

Circle Line

I have started to wonder, lately, whether my self-perception as someone who is not particularly sensitive is itself a sign of excess sensitivity. Certainly, it doesn't take much to prod me in the direction of negativity. I'll be cruising along, feeling calm and collected, and then some superficially minor irritant will initiate a mental detour. Then, more often than not, that mental detour will become a source of further irritation, leading to another mental detour. And so on and so on and so on. Sometimes, I don't realize what has been happening until I've completely forgotten the goal I set out for. Maybe I should just get diagnosed with ADHD so I can medicate the "auto" out of my teleology.