Learning To See – One

Learning To See – One

Versus ” all at sea “… or how to do photography without a camera.

Everyone reading this line has something in common – they can see and they can read. The seeing might be on a desktop computer, a tablet, or a mobile phone. The reading may be fast or slow. But here it is – a series of thoughts to ponder.

Our photographic experience is also a series of thoughts – but they are presented to us in images, rather than words. We learned to read them long before the ABC’s made any sense. Nearly all of us in western society have been exposed to images all our lives. In the case of some younger people, they have been digital images on screens, but even us oldies had books, cinema, magazines, and naughty postcards to look at. We started to see them when they were mere blobs of colour or patches of grey and very quickly recognised them for what they were: real life in two dimensions. In most cases they were small scenes, rather than full-size reproductions.

We learned to distinguish what was on the 2D scene – people, houses, horses and doggies. Moo-cows and motor cars. We tied what we saw there to what we could see in real life, and for the luckiest amongst us, at times we could not distinguish between the two.*

Now, as photographers, we reverse the process. We see real life and then we try to make it go down onto the 2D platform. That platform might be a screen or a print – we may accompany it with a song or a story, or just a caption. Again the best amongst the artists need neither of these aids – the image tells it all. When it tells it to its maker, that is a fine thing – when it tells it to everyone else, that is magnificent. Occasionally an image will show everyone else what its creator cannot see, and that is a very spooky moment.

Okay – here at the shop we are in the business of selling cameras and lenses that see, and lots of the other bits that lay these scenes out to view. Equipment and processes used to be cruder, and we could hope to capture some images, but fail. Now the improvements in the mechanics and electronics mean that the cameras and lenses can see things that we cannot – they can show us their vision and wait for us to catch up. This is most evident in the world of macrophotography and astro photography, but the ability of a camera to stop motion or draw a distant scene into itself means we see a lot more than we see.


See Friday for practical ideas on how to be better than you are today. Good news is you can already beat me just by getting up early and eating a good breakfast.

* I still call them moo-cows, but under my breath.


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