I have been playing with my camera a bit lately. In other words, I have pulled it out of its bag and put it out on a shelf so I can see it and grab it when I get the urge to take photos. Keeping it in a visible and more accessible place is working. I have taken a lot more pictures lately. For a few quiet mornings after drinking coffee on the patio, I have pulled out the camera, taking pictures from my second floor vantage point. Other times, I have gone for walks in the surrounding neighborhood with the camera looped around my neck, looking for small moments in the shadows and light.
I am an amateur photographer at best, and at the very beginning in terms of skill, passion, and knowledge. For a dozen or so years, I have owned and enjoyed the same camera with two lenses and yet I barely know how to use it beyond the auto settings. Sometimes I will experiment, but it’s really like shooting into the dark, and sometimes I come home with just that, a set of dark digital photos that I delete immediately. Photography is something that I love, and yet something I know very little about. I feel both freed by this and stymied by this. I enjoy that I can take a bunch of pictures with the hope that one or two will turn out without wasting a roll of film. Lately, though, in my morning camera meanderings, I realize that I want more. I run in the same neighborhood and have started to see things differently. I realize I am focusing.
Focusing in photography is choosing. The photographer uses the lens and camera settings and the view finder to pick the subject and to make adjustments in what one sees. An item in a photo that is “in focus” is clear while other things are blurry. Of course there is much more to it than that, and the complexity of finding a focus hasn’t been lost on me over the past few days.
As I think about photography and finding a focus, it’s hard not to ponder other meanings. The world feels hazy and blurry and fuzzy, like many of my photos. Things are in upheaval and I want to find a way that I can help, that I can be useful, where I can listen, where I can serve. I want to make sense of things and I want this discomfort and pain to mean something and to become something more. I want to acknowledge scars and find a way forward. I look for beauty in hazy skies, I look for hope among the wreckage.
I close my eyes and listen to my heart. I pray silently. In the pounding of my chest I know what I need to do. I take a breath. I am picking up the pieces and finding focus.