On Photography

I’ve found photography to be a hobby with a benefit beyond the wonderful images it produces.

It helps me pay attention to the world around me.

Now, I typically notice this benefit when I’m without my Nikon and see something which makes me say, “I wish I had my camera right now!” But before I took up photography as a hobby I typically would keep my eyes focused on whatever task or destination I had in my mind. The rest of the world just needed to get out of the way so I could get on with what needed doing. When I was on vacation I’d pay attention a bit more, but even then I’d be typically be focused on what was next, not where I was at present. I’ve never been one who relishes being “busy” 1, but the the space between where I was and where I needed to be was something to be traversed, instead of enjoyed.

Photography changed that. Now the details of the world are there to be taken in and savored, even if I don’t have my camera on hand 2. This past week, for example, I had twenty minutes to kill while I waited for my ride to pick me up from a train station. Rather than stare at my screen for the duration 3, I decided to do some laps around the parking lot and fill up some of my watch’s activity circles 4. As I strolled, I took notice of the both the nearby trees and the wild field which separated the parking lot from the main road. As I approached the field I saw some birds which I’d never before noticed. American Goldfinches, bright yellow with black trim, flitted between the tall grass and some nearby trees. I stopped and admired them for a few moments before continuing on my way. Before I took up photography I might have said, “Oh cool,” and continued by without further reflection. Post photography I stopped and wondered at the nature of the light and the best way I might capture the birds with my camera. I paid attention to how they hid in the grass, where they landed in the trees. And I noticed how many of them there were around.

I can’t recommend photography as a hobby enough. It can be expensive to “buy in 5,” but the benefits are absolutely worth it. It helps practitioners savor the world for all it’s beauty, and for some it even helps them reveal its profound brokenness. It tends to free people to be more present where they are, noticing details which otherwise might have been missed.

The only downside is lengthy meetings under soul-sucking fluorescent lights tend to become even more intolerable. But that is a price I recommend paying!

  1. In fact, I don’t even understand the concept. I find it exceedingly unhealthy. 
  2. Yes, I know “the best camera is the one you have with you.” But I find phone snapshots to be so disappointing I often wish I’d not taken a picture at all. 
  3. I’m reading a novel, so that’s not as bad as it sounds. 
  4. Apple Watch behavioral changes for the win. 
  5. Though low-end DSLR’s are getting much more reasonable for newcomers.