Words to a Friend by Dwain Shaw
Tom Gallien, aka Dipper Farkle, is a close and trusted friend. His photography is phenomenal, which is why I tag along with him. He makes my work look better. Tom and I talk a lot and share as friends do. Something happened last night which I wanted to share and there was no one better to share it with than Tom. My story follows, along with his reply.
Subject: A Time Not to Take the Picture
It has been a tough month, with my (late) wife in the hospital, Woosie (our dog of 16 years) having to be put down, a tough time at work and just a depressive feeling of my own. I want to get pumped up for some photography and may well have that opportunity next week in Arizona, but I want to share with you that sometimes just seeing is more important to your soul than taking the shot.
Being home alone for like the tenth evening in a row, feeling sorry for myself, I poured myself a glass of wine, cranked up the iPod and walked to the dock, with a magazine in tow. I only got through a few pages of the magazine, and Hotel California, when I noticed that tonight was going to be something very special. In 15 years here in my home I have never seen the sky so blue. Nothing spectacular with the clouds or the sunset but something told me to just be patient. As the evening unfolded the sky got bluer. The clouds got golden and the sun became more spectacular as it said goodnight. About that time the Canadian geese decided to leave for the evening and took off in three flights of 40 or more, spectacular as they winged past the sunset. But then there was a lone goose that was sort of the cherry on top. Maybe he was the Lone Ranger but he sure did pull up the rear real nicely. The sky was still blue, but the golds were fading to red and then pink. There were a few dark gray clouds that floated by, just to accent the easel. To the south, there were massive storm clouds, without the rain or thunder. To the west, the sun took a bow for the twelfth time, as the applause of my mind gave it many standing ovations.
Suddenly, a pontoon boat came out of the trees to my right. It was a new neighbor that I had only had a few conversations with. He said he surfed the lake every evening at sunset, along with his golden lab, just to chill from his day’s work. I told him that his lab had escaped some months back and I had shot several images of that beautiful hound basking in my cove, and I would be happy to send him the shots. He allowed, knowing that my wife’s health would no longer allow her to go out in the boat with me, to bring me his pontoon over to let us sail the lake, together, yet once again.
I had to leave shortly after that, as the mosquitos were about to carry me off, but the hour of this evening is an hour that will go down in my memory forever, for tonight I saw the bluest blue of the sky and the goldest gold of the clouds and the reddest red of the sunset. I am sorry that I could only share this image with myself, but if I have said this right, and I have conveyed an image to a close friend, then I have described seeing, without the camera.
And the lesson is, maybe sometimes seeing is more important than taking the shot. Just maybe, what this is all about is enjoying every once in a while, the beauty of nature without a camera between us and the sunset.
It certainly was tonight. Your friend, Homer!
Your words are powerful along with your generosity in sharing them, and I will indeed share this with my students. Consider it "Newsletter #2."
I started out this class by telling them that a photographic image starts with the mind and eyes working together to create a composition that can be captured by a camera, but to realize that the image captured by a camera is always a poor substitute for real life. So, I told them, one of my goals of this class is to teach you to "see life with different eyes." Last night as I projected some of their images that they have taken since they started my class, I saw some of the wonderment of creative photography in their eyes, it was evident in their "Ooooooooh"s when a new pastel rosebud popped on the screen that someone in the class (actually an oncological surgeon) had taken yesterday. Then an "Aaaaaahhhh" when an Ozark sunset jumped up and warmed the room. I love my job. And I thank you for passing along a special moment. Sometimes those moments are too long coming and too soon forgotten, but I hope not.
Dwain Shaw is an avid taker and teacher of photography. As an instructor for the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art and a co-sponsor of the Great Smoky Mountain Digital Adventure, Dwain has secured a place as a mentor to hundreds of students seeking the passion that we know as fine art. In addition, Dwain has written and published many articles on the subject of "seeing" as the key element to success in producing wall hangers. This article, though ironic in its theme, is a heart-felt statement on what he believes photography to be all about. You can see much of his work on line at www.borrowed-images.com.