At our house we believe in a few things. Hobbies and birthdays are among them.This policy offers ample opportunity for indulging in pleasurable interests all year around, with permission to go a little overboard on special occasions such as the anniversary of your arrival on the planet. Floyd, easily the best gift-giver I’ve ever known, is very good about asking for what I might like; and I know he will make it happen.
The problem is, at such moments I have a terrible time thinking of things I want. Which is ridiculous, since I see things I’d like to have every day. But then when it comes right down to it, do I really want Italian dishes or a new living-room rug or a handy carrier for garden tools?
So I hem and haw and dither, waiting for inspiration.
Who knows what possessed me to believe I wanted a macro lens for my camera? But there it was.
Despite the fact that this would be a birthday present, I carried out a duly diligent search of the internets for information about this sort of item. Some say “macro” and some say “micro,” but it turns out to be the same kind of lens. Close-up. They start out not-cheap and go astronomical from there. Fortunately, I had no intention of wandering into the four figures on something like a camera lens. The mid-three-figures was guilt-producing enough.
Evidently if your budget demands the kind of restraint we keep thinking of trying, you can buy a gadget to screw onto the front of a normal lens so you can screw the lens onto your camera backwards! But wait, there’s more: you can even take pictures with your lens (facing outward as it is supposed to do) detached from the camera body, just held a little in front of it, and get the same effect! The mind casts a merciful veil over the number of ways these little tricks could go very wrong in my hands. I just knew that in no time at all I’d go from saving money to a destroyed lens and a camera body full of mud.
But since it’s my birthday, I said to heck with it. Took myself up to Precision Camera
I keep talking about taking a photography class, and I swear one of these days I will. Next winter, maybe, since I cannot possibly sit still indoors at any other time of year. But there’s also something compelling about taking on a new hobby, or a new aspect of a familiar hobby, and learning about it on your own. And how can you lose, with digital? You can take a million photos and throw a million away. Why, this new lens has pretty much paid for itself already, when you think what I would have spent on film and developing back in the day.
Well but so this puts you in a position
But all that’s neither here nor there: what’s of much more interest is what you get to see when you get down low and up close. I walk up and down our sidewalk a dozen times a day nearly every day, watching for changes. (Anne Sexton to her daughter Linda: You’re like a garden! Something new every day!) The bright orange promise of the lion’s tail pushing its way out into April, for example.
Or take the cactuses, all of them busy
It’s not really surprising to step outside in the morning and see how things have progressed since yesterday, but it never ceases to amaze me how much can happen while I am inside working on laundry or a syllabus. At this time of year I’m up and down like a jack-in-the-box, checking on every part of the yard for what’s been going on behind my back. If plants had mothers, I would be a very annoying one.
The cactuses also lend themselves easily to this type of photograph, because stillness is required or else the whole picture is a blur. It seems all I need to do is put one foot out the door and the wind starts up. The poppies, glad as I am to have them, don’t even seem to need a wind; I’m starting to think they have a pulse.
In 1981 Alan Alda made a movie called “The Four Seasons.” The wonderful late Sandy Dennis played a character who was an obsessional photographer, taking months to get a single shot right. It was one of the main complaints her insurance salesman husband held against her when he decided to dump her for a young flight attendant (a character made sympathetic against all possible odds by Bess Armstrong).
Me, I like to take photos in a flurry, this,
But working close up slows me way down, until to my surprise I discover a piece of Sandy Dennis’s character inside myself. It’s hard for me to imagine myself taking my time with anything.
But to take close-up pictures you need your tripod, for one thing. Even
This is where the discovering begins.
There’s no getting around the fact that age slows us all down. It’s nice to know that this can be a good thing.