Inspiration, issues & comment

Focus – lessons from a vintage camera

FocusAt one point all my photos were taken with a vintage Pentax from the 1970’s.  It was on loan to me from a family member and when I bought a Nikon film SLR back in 2001, I handed the Pentax back, thinking I wouldn’t miss it now I had my shiny new camera.

How wrong I was.

I not only missed the feel and smell of the camera, the sound of the shutter, the thumb action of the manual wind.  But also the clarity of the photos.  The sharpness.  The colours.

I recently found out the camera was sold for $10 in a garage sale during a house move.  I inwardly cringed when I thought of it going to someone who may not have cherished it as much as I did.  Hopefully that was not the case.

At the time I persisted with my new camera, trying to get to grips with it and produce the quality of photos I was used to.  Somehow I never quite got the hang of it and it was eventually relegated to the back of the cupboard and replaced by a small digital camera (Sony Cybershot) and more recently a digital SLR (Nikon D3200).

It turns out I would have been better paying $10 to keep the Pentax rather than the $1,000 or so I shelled out for the shiny new SLR and zoom lens which I hardly used on account of the space it took up.  But that’s not really the point.  The point is that when I think about using the Pentax, what I really miss most of all is the moment of focus.

Yes, I know, I can use manual focus on a digital SLR too but for some reason it’s just not the same.  Why is that?  I think it may be something to do with the simplicity of the old Pentax.  It was so easy to focus yet if you messed it up it could ruin your shot.  There was something about those few seconds of holding ones breath, looking once more at the shot through the lens, and slowly getting the perfect focus before finally pressing down on the shutter button.

It’s all so easy nowadays, isn’t it?  Just stick the camera on autofocus and away you go.  Looking through the lens but at the same time not really looking.  You can take as many shots as you like until you get a good one.  It’s the same with computers, smartphones and social media where we are reading everything but not really reading anything at all.  How can we?  It’s impossible to take in all the information we are bombarded with.

Our focus has become splattered in a million directions and we, as a result, have become splattered in a million pieces.  Knowing a little about everything, doing a little of everything.  Without any real focus or depth.

Obviously some people have an amazing ability to focus and get things done.  Me?  Not so much.  Which is why I’m going back to basics and reminding myself of the vintage Pentax and the point of focus.  It never let me down when I was taking a photo.  Maybe it could help me now.

Pause.  Reflect.  Focus.  Act.

It’s time to turn off autofocus and see if I can make this my motto for 2015.

Oh, and if you know of a 1970’s Pentax that needs a good home, please give me a shout ♥

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Inspiration, issues & comment

Wild thing I think I love you

Once wildLast year, rather than making new year resolutions I would doubtless break, I chose a word to live by.  That word was WILD.  I wanted to see more of my wild self, my wild soul, my true essence.  It was time to break down the barriers, let go of the layers and discover the wilder, freer version of myself that I knew existed somewhere deep inside.

Choosing a word to live by was a powerful process, so much more positive than the age-old tradition of resolutions which are usually forgotten and broken by February anyway, leaving us feeling once again like we have failed in some way.  This last year I would only have to ask “what would my wild self do now” and I would have the answer or direction I was seeking.  I’m sure the whole process was helped by spending most of the year in the wilds of France.  It was a year of letting go and peeling away the layers to see what lay beneath.

So did the wild woman show her face?  Yes, she did!  I felt my wildest truest self when I was walking barefoot, feeling the sun-warmed earth beneath my feet.  When I was chopping wood, swinging the axe and using my strength to provide fuel for the fire.  When I stood looking into the face of a young deer, the split-second before it barked a warning to the herd and sprang off.  When I was standing amongst the trees under an ice-cold shower washing off the sweat and dirt of the day.  When I was writing, taking photos, being creative.

Last year was a year of shedding skins and coming to gentle realisations.  The realisation that less is more.  Less material things, less commitments, less busyness, less interaction.  More nature, more time, more thoughts, more writing, more laughing, more knowing myself.

Was I scared when I set out on this journey of what I might find?  Hell, yes!  But I have realised that being scared is usually the start of something good, great even.  I’ve learned more about myself in these past twelve months than I have in years of distracting myself away from who I truly am.

I have learned that being wild is about letting go of who we think we are and embracing who we truly are.  It’s about trusting ourselves and not caring what anyone else thinks about us or what we are doing.  Refusing to give airtime to the naysayers and harbingers of doom.  They’re not my people.  Why should I care what they say?

It is about the importance of experience over material possessions.

It’s about digging deep and gently visiting the dark places in our minds with compassion and forgiveness.  This was maybe the hardest thing of all this year, but in shedding light on the darkness I have started to see myself differently.  I have stopped judging myself and have started accepting myself.

It’s about learning to see the passing years not as wasted dreams or time that has escaped, but as years of experience and a growing wisdom.  Learning to settle in our skin.

It is about bringing our soul, our personality and our true essence into our work and the way we live our lives. Standing in our power and daring to live the life we want to live, based on our own values and philosophy.

It’s about breaking the rules, breaking free and allowing ourselves to just be ♥

Nature, photography & France

The Bay

The BayIt’s early morning as I slip out of the cottage door and head down the short lane alongside the garden.  There’s a faint pink glow in the sky as the sun starts to rise behind the clouds.  The tide is high in the bay and there’s almost no room to walk along the sandy shore.  All I can hear is the gentle lapping of the tide and the early morning chattering of the Brent geese that apparently winter here every year.

There’s a slight chill in the air but it still doesn’t feel cold enough for a January morning.  I only have on a thin top beneath my jumper and jeans and the scarf thrown around my neck keeps me warm enough.  The water sounds loud to my sleepy ears after the quiet stillness of the cottage at night, nestled between the ancient cedars in a corner of the well-tended gardens.  The only disturbance is the occasional squirrel using the roof as a shortcut between trees.

I fleetingly wonder what my friends and family think of this latest escapade.  It wasn’t really what we had planned at all.  We thought by now we would have work and an apartment in Bordeaux and would fast be heading back to the life we knew before.  But I guess the universe had another plan because here we are in another housesit on the beautiful Arcachon Bay with just enough work to keep us ticking over and plenty of time to explore the area, to keep writing, taking photos, working on our various projects.

I look out over the bay with its tides and changing weather, oyster farms and resident and visiting bird populations.  I take a deep breath and register the feeling of calm and peace that has been with me since we came here.  The first rays of sun are just beginning to pierce the clouds as I make my way up the lane again and quietly let myself back in to the little wooden cottage, our home for now.