Monday, June 11, 2012

Life Away from the Lens

I swore I would never be a woman who lived her life behind a camera lens.  I wanted to live in the moment, experiencing life as it occurred. 

I achieved this goal until I received a Nikon that captures moments up close and from considerable distance with clicks of a silver button.  Using that telescopic lens, I could see fine details my unaided eye used to see as blurs.

After I got the camera, I went to Valle Caldera in New Mexico where I saw dark objects miles away. I couldn’t tell if they were cattle, horses, or elk, but when I maximized the focus, I counted every tine on those elk antlers.

Power is dangerous, and this camera gave me power to see detail at amazing distances. The trade-off was it limited what I saw. Despite this disadvantage, I found myself behind the camera watching my granddaughter play while I snapped photo after photo.

I traveled across the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming, watching bits of scenery through that vision-limiting lens.  Through the peep-hole, I watched a grizzly follow a buffalo calf in Yellowstone and took a wonderful close-up.

Despite these pictures to show loved ones, I sense I missed out on something I can’t retrieve.  A recent trip without a camera drove this message home.

We traveled through Hill City and Norton on our way to Sidney, Nebraska, right after a dense snowfall.  Weather channels predicted a blizzard, but Mother Nature fooled the prognosticators, delivering snow that, due to its beauty, should be its own coffee table photo collection. 

North of Wakeeney, I realized we would drive through miles of winter wonderland Kansans rarely see. Despite my intentions to capture 1000s of great snow scenes, I misplaced my camera.   Without it, I focused only with eyes and memory, but I saw the big picture. 

Field after field looked as though thousands of pastry chefs had frosted them with elegant seven-minute frosting. Contours plowed into the fields looked like meringue crests while Dairy Queen swirls capped posts and bushes.

Not only were fields and ditches works of art, but trees and poles sported Currier and Ives snow decorations. It looked as if a giant dabbed each branch or pole with a pointed brush. We happened to drive through this as the morning sun took aim and set fire to all those ice crystals.  I didn’t have enough breath for so many “Aha” moments.

I ached to wrap my hands around that missing camera.  I’ll never see so many miles of stunning snow again.  On the other hand, because I didn’t have that lens to focus and that button to click, I saw every bit of beauty surrounding me.

I had forgotten how a lens keeps the photographer from being part of the scene.  I appreciate this reminder even though I wish I could share these scenes with others.

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