the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

A HARVEST OF WONDERS

By MICHAEL PERKINS

ONE THING THAT MANY OF MY FAVORITE PICTURES HOLD IN COMMON is that they somewhat sneak up on me, beginning as the most instantaneous blips of whim and ending up as the kinds of images that make me grateful for the day I first picked up a camera. Many of these pictures barge into my brain while I think I am looking for something almost totally unrelated. They demand my attention: they insist on my participation.

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That’s what we’ve got here. The young girls you see, happily sharing the thrill of tripping barefoot in the shallows of a river, appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, during my “official” picture-taking, a birdwatching hike that’s become a regular event between Marian and me and several close friends. The day’s snaps predictably consist of a few lucky sightings and a lot of landscape shots, with a smattering of candids of the crew. During one such group shot, framed down near the edge of the Snake River (a major player in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest), I heard girlish giggles over my shoulder, and, seconds later, a flash of blurred color as several friends began to wade in, surprised that, even in January, the water wasn’t yet too cold for the thrill of discovery.

There was simply nothing else that made any sense at this point other than to spend the next few minutes trying to capture the essence of their fun, about a dozen frames of them running, exploring, and, mostly, laughing, all shot on some kind of mental autopilot. In eavesdropping on their fun, I was reminded of the quote from the author Walter Streightiff, who wrote, “There are no ‘seven wonders of the world’ in the eyes of children. There are seven million..” A child’s eye takes in a cascade of newness that allows it to process every experience through a filter of amazement. It’s an openness that we all initially possess but forget we have as the years advance.

Teaching ourselves to see photographically pries us back open again, lets us re-enter that harvest of wonders with as much delight as was once our primary instinct to do. That’s when the Plan “A” of what we started out to shoot becomes wonderfully hijacked and Plan “B” kicks in. You were making one kind of picture, and now, gloriously, you’re making another.

And you are grateful.

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