Nov 30, 2005

Hit It With A Hammer, Eugene

Surprisingly, today's blog title has nothing to do with the content. Imagine that. And be sure to keep in mind that by reading this, you have temporarily given me control of your mind. Scary thought, eh? Take that, Scary Duck.

Have you ever noticed the difference between what a camera captures and what you actually SEE?

Again, like many subjects before, I am opening a can of worms. I know full well that there have been volumes written on the mind/brain's perception versus reality, but I cannot help but say something, because what used to be background information to me has come to my notice. Much like every species of dog, I awake in a new world every day.

Twice now I have experienced things that have thrilled me, and I have attempted to capture their images (and thereby the thrill that comes with the subject) on film, and both times I have failed. There is an obvious gulf between what I see, or should I say "what I experience" and what is actually there.

And no, it does not involve Bigfoot, elves, nor a Mulderish desire to be abducted and probed.

Taken as seen this morning, what I experienced as a near-solid wall of fog turned out to be a gradual thickening of fog. Driving in to work this morning, the 32 degree cold had turned the previous day's stored heat energy into two very unnaturally thick and defined bands of fog, each separated by a very clear section of air at least a city block long. Approaching the first at 35mph inside Rita's heated interior I saw it as being surprisingly thick and defined, so I snapped a picture with my cellular phone camera. And naturally, the photo showed it having obvious grades of thickness, increasing as one entered. My mind had handily 'missed' experiencing the slowly thicking mist around me.

The second thing that brought this to my attention, second in count rather than in experience was the encroachment of a huge flock of starlings into my back yard. Now, when I say "huge" I do in fact mean several hundred birds. The starlings are moving southwards for winter, and they do so in massive flocks, which come to alight like a black blanket on telephone lines, yards, fields, wherever there is room for them all. So, seeing (and hearing) the unmistakable approach, I creeped around the yard for half an hour or so, attempting to capture the majesty of so many birds moving roughly as one.

My experience was that of thousands of birds, a constantly-moving mass of them. I could not experience them as single objects; the way I perceived them was as a gestalt, a mass of living things that behaved as a single thing. When they flew over my head from the pines in the front yard to the field in back they passed over like flights of fighter planes. It seemed that there were dozens and dozens in the sky at once, moving so fast I could barely focus on single birds.

The pictures put the 'lie' to my experiences. Thousands of birds became merely hundreds, the overhead formations turned out to be frames including three or four birds only, and the massive turning, wheeling flock became for the most part a collection of birds moving in roughly the same direction. All sense of the dramatic had left them, and robbed of the constant chattering and whooshing sounds of hundreds of pairs of wings the pictures were as flat and unbecoming of the real thing as a sienna-hued dageurotype.

I learned an important lesson as a photographer that day: the massive distance between what one sees and what the camera can capture. I can only hope to bring the two a little closer together with time and patient experimentation.


Vulgar Wizard said...

Sounds like it's time for a massive zoom lens.

Irrelephant said...

Yup. Or a really horribly expensive digital.