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September, 2004

Through the Lens

by Valerie

I like pictures and I love photography. To be more accurate, my infatuation is with observing. I am rarely satisfied with how closely I am able to study my environment and am always looking for more detail. The camera has, for many years, been an excellent tool in my pursuit of visual knowledge.

When I began using a camera, I found that by capturing images, whether of majestic vistas or minute insects, I could not only remember more of what I originally saw, but I could see things that I didn't grasp the first time around. My memory is far from perfect and the moment something has left my field of vision, its characteristics begin to fade. Many people say that they don't want to bother with a camera because it gets in the way of their immediate experience. I've found that I actually get more involved in what's going on around me when I am studying it both with direct observation and through the lens of my camera. Yes, there are times when I'm busy doing something and then I obviously don't take pictures. Much of the time, though, I'm simply watching and not required to do anything more. When I hike, go to zoos, or sit in our backyard, it is like being in a big theater and everything is there to be experienced through the senses, especially sight.

tiny spider in a rainbowed web

Now that I've discarded the inhibitions of film cost and developing in favor of digital imaging, the camera has become more like an extension of my vision than ever before. Just as I would use binoculars or a magnifying glass, I can now use my camera to help me see beyond my ocular limitations. My eyesight is not bad, it is just human. As I get older, it is more difficult to make out small details, especially in low light. With the camera and computer, I can now see, in brilliant color and resolution, tiny flowers, insects, textures, and patterns. The world has suddenly developed a whole new layer that I am exploring for the first time.

There are plenty of published photos taken through microscopes and telescopes, presenting amazing images that we would otherwise not see, but the photographs I take are my own personal view of my surroundings. I can share that view with others if I want, or just study it for my own curiosity. I didn't have particularly high expectations when I first tried using my camera to record images beyond my visual limits, and maybe that's why I am perpetually delighted by every new discovery. It's just nice to know that, as I muddle through middle age, the world can continue to seem fresh and exciting, and I'll never run out of surprises.

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