The accompanying photo was taken by my husband. I was busy putting on vision-distorting glasses so I could ‘see’ what it is like for a vision-impaired person to bowl. Not only was it was very enlightening, I think it actually improved my game. I am sure there is a lesson in there that pertains to photography as well.
But first, let me explain that I don’t really bowl. Once a year I join other local Lions for the District 1-J Bowling event. In my case, that entails launching a heavy cylindrical object down a narrow alley, with the intent of knocking down a set of ten oddly-shaped wooden things called ‘pins.’ On either side of the alley are two gutters. Unfortunately, my bowling ball spent more time in the gutters than it did impacting the bowling pins. As much as my brain says to throw the ball straight down the alley, I end up throwing across my body with the unhappy result of the ball heading for the gutter on the left hand side. When I try to compensate, the ball ends up in the gutter on the right hand side.
And so it went for the first two games - at one point, I may have set a record of six gutter balls in a row. Then I took a trip to the other end of the bowling alley, where they had the vision-impaired bowling set up. They put rails to hold onto and to guide your approach; and they put bumpers up on either side of the alley, taking the place of the gutters.
A friendly lady offered me the choice of either blind-fold or heavy vision-distorting glasses. I chose the glasses. Then she took my arm and guided me over to the bowling balls. I chose the most colorful one, a task that proved easier than finding the finger holes. Then she put my hand on the railing and left me on my own. I looked down towards the pins. I could see the light wood color of the floor, and at the end of the alley some white linear shapes that I assumed were the pins. Instead of trying to be so perfect, worrying about form, finding the little arrows on the floor and such, I just aimed the ball as straight as I could towards the white shapes that were about 60 feet away. No pressure, just relax, and let it go. The bumpers would protect me. And others.
To my surprise and delight, I ended up with a spare - much better results than when I could actually see what I was doing. Even better, once we returned to our normal lane, with normal bowling conditions, and without the vision-distorting glasses, my third game was much improved. One theory says I just got better with practice. Another theory says that I needed a break. A third theory says that the vision-impaired bowling results gave me the confidence that I could do it. Whatever the reason, with a little coaching from some Lions who really know how to bowl, and my new-found confidence, I ended up with a strike and a spare or two, and a much higher score than the first two games. Yes, I still fell back into the gutter a couple of times, but nowhere near the extent as the earlier games.
So, what does this have to do with photography? I think that sometimes we just need to step back, stop trying so hard to be perfect, and enjoy the moment. Try something new. Look at things with a different set of eyes. Get out of your comfort zone and just see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised.
I would love to hear about your eye-opening experiences, either in the new year or years gone by.
Not only is “Focus” the title of the group photography exhibition opening this month at the Bloomingdale Park District Museum, but I have chosen this word as my mantra for 2013. Yes, I have a mantra. I like that idea better than making resolutions that will most likely be broken before the first full moon of the chilly night time sky.
Before I get too far, the word “mantra” as defined by Wikipedia means “a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation." So, this year I will focus on transformation. Specifically I am going to focus on the business aspect of my photographic life. For the past two years I have studied, learned, practiced, improved my technical skills - color, printing, lighting, studio, post-production, work-flow, editing, critiques; in sum, creating works of art that I like enough to share with other people.
Now it is time to get serious, to transform my hobby into a business that can be financially rewarding as well as artistically satisfying. My goal (yes I will still have goals) is to avoid spreading myself too thin. If I try to do too much, then I will accomplish nothing. I will take it one step at a time, baby steps if I have to, or “umbrella steps” to get a little creative. Anyone who played “Captain May I?” will understand umbrella steps - those kind of whirly, fun, free-for-all movements that can advance you beyond the limitations of silly rules.
Step 1 is to Get Organized. This has been my focus for the last few weeks, and will continue to be my focus for the month of January. Empty out the closets, throw out all that stuff that I haven’t worn, used, or seen in the last two years. Oh, do I still have that pink sweater? Why? I will never wear it - out it goes. Salvation Army, Goodwill, Cancer Federation, have at it. Organize that pile of papers and either file them in labeled folders, or throw them out as unnecessary clutter. Now I have room to store my newly acquired gear, props, and accessories. Wicker baskets are great. They look good, they are trendy, and most importantly, they hide the stuff. Less clutter equates to calmer state of mind, which translates to ability to focus.
Step 2. There is no step 2. Not until February. Remember? One step at a time. Oh, I know what it is, I am just not telling. You will have to tune in next month to find out.
The accompanying image “Incapsulation” is one of the framed images I have on display as part of the “Focus” exhibit. The underlying images were taken on my recent trip to Austin and San Antonio, Texas. If you have a chance, please stop by to see me and many other local photographers at the Artist’s Reception on Friday, January 18 from 6 - 8 pm. Complimentary/refreshments will be served. For more information, go to Bloomingdale Park District Museum, 108 S Bloomingdale Road, Bloomingdale, IL.