I stepped through the doorway of the Westminster tube station into the glories of London. It was delightfully overwhelming. Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, Boudicca Statue, River Thames, London Eye, and Westminster Abbey were just the beginning of thrills on this little piece of real estate.
It didn’t take me long to realize photography would be challenging. There were people and cars everywhere and the buildings were ginormous. I couldn’t get high enough or back far enough to capture it all in the viewfinder. In a crowd of photographers, my 5″2′ frame made me Zacchaeus in the back, holding my camera above my head, wishing for a tree to climb. I accepted there would be people in nearly every picture.
My first pictures are always the street view. You know, the pictures every tourist takes? The ones that say, “Hey, look kids, I went to London without you!”
Then I look for action. Is there anything going that would enhance the setting? A couple interacting, fighting or kissing, it doesn’t matter. Someone that works there. Someone napping on the steps. A beggar with a sign.
Why, yes, I do take pictures of strangers, all the time, thanks for asking. It makes for great photography because strangers never say, “Mom, stop taking pictures of me!”
I shoot from all the angles looking for a different view. Shadows and light are different on all sides. A group of people walking towards something tells a different story than people walking away. Shoot up, shoot down, shoot all around. This is why I end up with grass in my hair and mud on my knees. But you never get the moment back, so I shoot until I’m satisfied.
If I’m walking with someone I quickly choose which one view I want to capture, then run to catch up.
My final step in capturing something completely is examining the details. I find one detail that tells a story.
We all love head-to-toe shots of our children, but those close-ups of dimpled toddler fingers, or curled lashes resting on a chubby cheek are enough to tell the whole story, aren’t they? Buildings and gardens are no different. Focus on a small detail and relax into the moment.
Photography is more than capturing proof you were there, it’s sealing a moment in your heart. It’s getting so lost in the art and beauty of the moment the memory will speak to you long after you’ve arrived home.
The street view says your body was there. The detail view says you left part of your heart there.
See? I was there. You see the river, the boats, the Ferris Wheel, and the cool buildings. There’s a historical connection, but not an emotional connection.
This metal thing on the end of the Westminster Bridge fascinated me. I walked up and down the stairs, shooting from different angles to find my shot. Then I looked up. I stood on tippy-toes until my calves charley-horsed, holding my camera over my head, but it was worth the shot.
Look on the right side about a third of the way up where a handle sticks out.
The locks were fascinating. They showed purpose. Tradition. It’s not something you car in your pocket or purse. I carry a 42 pound purse filled with in-case-somebody-needs-something junk, but I’ve never carried a lock and key. I might have to start.
How did the tradition start? Was it locals? Vacationers? Do the locks symbolize a presence or a promise?
But, I wasn’t done. I looked closely, fingering the locks, still charley-horsing on tippy-toes, mind you. The sense of touch is often a part of my detail shot, I will trace the architectural pattern or touch the flower petals to evoke sensory memory with my photographs later. Sometimes the touch inspires the creative way I want to frame a picture.
The picture speaks. I had finally drilled down to the detail that captured the entire scene. If you’re like me, you’re building the story around it. You’re picturing a couple overlooking the River Thames, strolling happily together, pausing for a kiss, and sealing the moment with a lock.
Did Ryan propose to Damelle here? Are they still together? Do they come back often to visit their lock? If they have children will they attach a tiny lock to theirs after each birth?
When I stepped back from the detail view, I had a new perspective on the street view. My focus and emotional bonding in that detail changed my overall view.
At the end of a photo excursion, it’s my collection of detail views that best express and define my overall experience. They’re the ones that bring me back to that spot and allow me to feel the big picture again.
Photography and life are alike in this way – the big picture can overwhelm.
But, you start there with reality. Whether it’s a difficult project or a strained relationship, start at the street view. It is what it is. Accept it.
Is there movement? Is anybody else involved? Do they impact the situation? Do you need to ask people to walk towards or walk away from the situation?
Do you need a different perspective? Are you really seeing it clearly? Would a different angle change your mind or situation? Are you missing anything that would affect your outlook?
Then drill down deeper. Break your reality into smaller pieces. Work on one detail until you have mastered it. Do one part of the project. Do one thing to heal the relationship. A card. A prayer. A kind word.
Conquer a detail. Then another. Then another.
The compilation of these pieces, the detail views, will impact your big picture, the street view.