“Okay,” she’ll say, perplexed. “Now smile!”
“You have to say something funny,” I’ll respond, and she usually can’t come up with anything. Last month, the woman closed her eyes and seemed to be trying hard to think of something funny. That amused me and I grinned. As a student or teacher, I’ve had my picture taken this way about forty-five times. My first-grade school picture was on our refrigerator for a while last summer with those of my children and grandchildren after my wife dug it out for comparison.
Group shots are worst. Leaning in close and holding a fake smile makes my cheek muscles cramp. I feel foolish trying to keep a goofy smile on my face while somebody fumbles with a camera, so I just don’t do it anymore. I never ask others to pose either because I don’t want to put them through the ordeal. Besides, candid shots are much better. With an 18-270 mm zoom on my Nikon D-60, good portraits are possible when people don’t know I’m capturing their image. I get them as they are, not as they may wish to appear.
My camera is always with me, but I forgot it recently while rushing out to church. We visited my new granddaughter on the way home and it bothered me awfully that I couldn’t take pictures of her. Then at Fryeburg Fair last week, the auto-focus on my zoom lens stopped functioning while I was shooting faces in the crowd. I had to send it out for repair and I miss it every day it’s not available to me. I’ve enjoyed photography for almost forty years, but I’m liking it more lately than I ever have. That’s good because it’s an indication of my attitude toward my world these days: I’m noticing what is around me and savoring it.
If I see something while driving, I’ll pull over and even back up to get a picture. When she’s with me my wife tries to be patient, but she gets annoyed if we’re running late and that can diminish the creative mood. As a columnist, I like to write about whatever I want any given week. As a photographer, I’m the same way. Whatever catches my eye is what I shoot. When writing, I feel like I’m putting out. While shooting pictures, I feel like I’m taking in.
We have thousands of shots with children, grandchildren, other people and much else over the past thirty-eight years since my wife gave me a 35mm Minolta SRT-101 for Christmas. I still have that camera, but seldom use it since I bought myself a good digital SLR last year. Now I’m taking a thousand shots a month and they’re clogging my computer and I have to invest in a second portable hard drive to store them. Every day I see beauty in nature and in people, and try to capture it. What I get is never as good as what my eye sees, but sometimes I can carry a little sunshine home in my jar, so to speak. It might be a scene, a flower, a tree, a face, a shadow, a bog, a rock formation, an old building, an integration of color - it could be most anything. Others may not see what I see and that’s fine. I’ll show them if they ask, or give away images upon request, but my pictures are for me.
That’s what I came to this month after a friend suggested I enter some in a contest. I considered it, and even pondered which shots might be suitable, but couldn’t decide because I like them all. Then I asked myself why I should submit and I couldn’t come up with a good enough answer. It’s immaterial whether others think my pictures are good. That’s not why I take them.
My pictures are for me.