Working it Out

The sound of the gravel road is left behind and all that is heard is the gentle whirr of the derailleur as the bicycle glides onto a grassy trail that disappears into green foliage ahead.  The seldom used tractor trail is lined mostly with willow on either side, but patches of the darker green of spruce and hemlock are found deeper, the darkness beneath I imagine as cool shade for squirrels and rabbits and other fauna, and cover from the interloper whirring past.

The perceptible quickening of my heart is felt when I’m about to embark on an adventure, whether it be bicycling to the marshland nearby, or finding the best vantage point for a sunset, or just driving until you see a location that perks your interest.  Is it nature that I’m looking for or people, architecture, still life?  Is it the quest for the perfect shot that drives me or the record of the experience that I want to capture?  Can I share how I feel right at that moment when I’m sitting on some exposed rock of the Canadian Shield next to untouched marshland watching minnows dart about in dark water that contains life in every drop, looking up at stout, hardy pine and listening to the winds low hush in it’s needles, and smell it’s pungent humus beneath.  To hear the plop of a frog jumping to safety in the water, or the wind rushing over the wings of a crow overhead.

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I’ve never considered myself a naturalist, although I spent most of my formative years in the woods and along streams (or in them).   I can look back and say that for the most part I’ve taken for granted what surrounds me.  After telling people where I grew up, they would often comment on how beautiful it is.  “Until you’ve lived there for twenty years” would be my reply.  We get caught up in the drama of life, pulled to distraction by responsibilities, relationships, finances, and a hundred other stressers you could list.  “Stop and smell the roses” they say.  “Yeah, I did that already, what now?”

So it isn’t trees and crows you’re interested in, that’s cool.  How about your wife, or your kids, your mum and dad, your motorcycle, your bicycle, cars, plains, guitars, churches, jelly beans, colour, monochrome, rainbow, hissing, bass drum, symphonic, jazz, chocolate pie, moonbeams, whatever…  There’s gotta be somethin’ that grabs you.  Grab your camera and look through that lens and look!  What do you see?  Where do you point it, and what do you see?  What do you see?  What lines are there, what curves,texture, what colour or lack there of?  You don’t have a camera?  Grab your fiddle, your paintbrush, your ipod, your salad fork, whatever it is that’s in front of you and look at what it’s made of.  What does it look like, smellsoundfeeltaste like.  Ask yourself what makes that thing beautiful.  Or ugly, or angry, or joyful.  I’ve managed to surround myself with vast amounts of stuff, with great effort, without ever affording the time to experience it, or ever really thinking to.  I’ve got a painting on the wall that I’ve never really looked at.

I’ve found a way to strap my camera bag onto my handlebars which makes it comfortable and has easier access when presented with an opportunity.  I don’t own a zoom that surpasses 80mm so I’m not able to get many close shots of animals or birds unless I’m physically close, but that’s not necessarily what I’m looking for.  Most of the time I bike after the dishes are washed and the homework’s done and the kids are put to bed, so it’s dusk and I’m still not used to hearing the coyotes yip from what seems a rather close distance, it’s disconcerting.  I push myself to go a little further, another road, another swarm of dear fly, another sunset.

My camera is always with me, but it’s not the focus of what I do.  It’s the tool with which I try to create a true, authentic representation of life with.  Like music, or writing, it’s a way for me to explain myself to others and to explain life to myself.  To capture an image is to hold onto a moment in time which otherwise passes by without a second thought.  Hold onto that the next time you are looking at someones family album, or pics of a fishing trip, or listening to someones music, or eating dinner at their house, it’s their lives they’re sharing with you.

I took these while visiting family in Sudbury Ontario last week, the sun was hot but the wind was cool.  Summer is fading quickly, you can see it in the shades of brown and ochre, and the sun hangs lower on the horizon.  The scents were overwhelming, it was as if every ten steps brought a new fragrance, or as in the case with the blueberries, taste!

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click to enlarge


About Paul Miller

Father of six Husband of one Son of two Brother of three Friend of ... a few?
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