The sea smoke came back and finally, I got it. I did.
It’s the first cold day. Out the dark window this morning the thermometer registered 32; our breath bloomed white in front of us when we entered the garage. With the mild weather we’ve had lately, the pond down the street is warmer then the air. As we drove by it, mist materialized from water that reflected like a warped mirror; strands of vapor copied gray on its chalky surface.
Every autumn for years, my daughter and I have driven by similar scenes on our way to drop her off at school. Each time it’s a surprise. We catch a glimpse of rising steam beyond leafless trees and both exclaim “Oh look!” Invariably, I follow up with, “If only I had the camera…” before accelerating past the pond on the way to her school.
Before, when we would encounter this phenomenon, after depositing her, I had to continue six miles farther to work. This morning, she exited the car, and conscious of the of the rising sun’s potential to evaporate the mist, I raced home past rock walls to retrieve the Nikon.
There is something about this need in me, to capture the essence of a picture with words and on film. When not glued to the computer writing my brains out over the last nine months, I’ve been running around taking shot after shot, often of the same subject, trying to frame the moment, to define an instant; to catch a perfect execution—hoping somehow to freeze the emotion conjured by the scene and share it, so I’m not the only one.
I’m not a skilled photographer, the same way I’m not an expert writer, but I’m an eager one. It makes sense how each compel. With every piece I create, the first draft produces a snapshot, a sketching of the total scene. Follow up photos are like edits, clarifying and refining. How about if I crouch on my knees and shoot up through the trees? What will the print look like from the bend in the road, from behind a split rail fence, above the waving paint brush fronds of the leggy marshland grass?
I don’t own Photoshop or extensive photography software, though Picasa helps some, and editing my image is like revising a final draft. The story, the subject, the big picture if you will, rests there on the page; the details are clear. Now it needs cropping and highlighting, an air brush here or there, adjustment to the film grain, the tint.
There’s joy in each attempt, and awe at what I capture. But with every picture I take, as with every piece I write, the passage of time unveils what I might have focused on differently, pared away, angled for a unique effect—hints, reminders and sometimes full blown lessons that keep me whittling things down and refining, always toward the goal of exposing the most evocative view.