Photography At Its Best

There are some things in life which are guaranteed - laws of science, laws of the universe, even laws that govern the behavior of man and animals. We study these, picking them apart and detailing each movement, each activity, each step needed to reproduce what we've seen or to predict what might come next.

We have a need to know.

Photography is all about a need to know. It is knowing the light at each time of day, knowing when the sunrises or sets, knowing how to control shadows or the lack thereof. It is also knowing the science behind it. People make a point to study it, to write down the perfect exposure for each moment of the day, when to use their flash, when to not use their flash. They have tables and charts of shutter speeds, ISOs, and definable formulas of what to do next.

These are important. They are part of becoming an accomplished photographer. They are also part of what causes man to constantly better the instrument itself. It's always the next camera, the next thing out there, the biggest and best and highest. All of that is true and good. I'm for lenses and filters and tripods. I'm for the science part of it. I may not always understand it, but it's a good thing.

Yet ...

Yet the thing inside me that hooked me on it to start with was not the gear, and it definitely wasn't knowledge of the craft. I was as ignorant as the day is long. Instead, it was the mystery of life. It was seeing the unknown and realizing that I will never know enough, never be smart enough, or accomplished enough, never reach a pinnacle where I've seen it all and done it all.

I feel small in the universe sometimes and insignificant in the world of photography. I look at some of the most fabulous shots and wonder how I ever fit in when I don't travel. I don't go places. In fact, I rarely leave home. When I'm happiest in my garden, staring at the flowers that return year after year. When I like routine and repetition and boringness. They make me comfortable.

However, perhaps that is the point because even then, even there, it really isn't boring at all. Sit long enough and you see life going on all around. A flower that unfolded today. A sprout that came up from the earth unexpected. A beetle I've never seen before trundling across the soil. A bee, busy about his business of gathering nectar and pollen. A great, big butterfly with wings so huge I hear them flap as he passes over. And all of that fitting into place as it was designed to fit. And me watching and not knowing what might come next. What might come around the corner.

For instance ...

The other day I was sitting on my front porch when the neighbor's cows made a ruckus. Now, I like cows. They are, from my observations, placid beasts, content in their field of grass no matter the weather - rain, sun, wind, cold. This appeals to the humdrum side of me. So when they made this noise, and one cow in particular, it caused me to look up. And there before me was an amazing sight, a calf. Just like that life had changed. Something new had entered the world and I was there to witness it.

I watched for the next hour as that mother nuzzled her baby. I watched him struggle to stand and walk, and then the next day, I watched him leap and run about the field in the thrill of being alive. And I felt so fortunate to be there. So grateful.


There is much said this time of year about gratitude. We are told each day to get up and say thanks for something in our lives that has blessed us. For me, there is a lot. I'm thankful for good friends, for family, for my spouse, who has stuck with me through thick and thin, but you know, I'm grateful for that calf too, and for the day skippers rained down from the sky. Twirling and spinning around each other in a frantic cloud, they made my afternoon brighter.

For they brought to me at that moment on that day, some of the unknown, some of the mystery that compels me forward. I'm grateful for that, and I'm grateful for you, the reader, who take the time each month to read my missives and the ramblings of my overflowing brain. Thank you. Thank you, and keep photographing. Because your unknown fascinates me as much as my own.

After all, we never know what's out there, and isn't that the best part? Isn't it that despite all we do there will be something we didn't plan for, something that appears before us and there we stand, camera in hand ready to witness it and capture it for all time? Isn't it that we can be insignificant and small in the scope of the business and yet make amazing discoveries?

I think so. That is photography. Photography at its best.


Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.