Learn to Fly

I needed an escape and so decided to head downtown Tampa. In reality, with the COVID life we are all now living, it was only a 35 minute drive and worth the escape from the sofa.

Unlike other trips, this time I decided to do something that took me out of my comfort zone. I only brought with me one camera and a zoom lens. I deliberately left everything else at home.

In doing so, I was deliberately forcing myself to work with the wrong equipment for what would be typical night scene images. Normally I would choose a wide angle lens or a fixed lens or both.

But I wanted to see, if by deliberately picking the wrong type of lens, I could force myself to look at these familiar surroundings differently.

This zoom lens is my normal choice for nature trails because it gets me closer to the creatures that I encounter along the way. The only creatures I was likely to encounter on this journey were humans and in truth I feel awkward pointing a zoom lens at a stranger, while they are out for an evening stroll.

This translated into a shyness that got more people moving away from the camera than moving towards it. Yes, you called it … a lot of butt shots. Even an ass-crack from a dude on a bicycle.

The net effect of that attempt was that I felt like a peeping tom.

I would like to say that I magically turned the night around and turned it into a wild success of some sort, but the truth is most of the shots were dismal and those that weren’t could have been caught better with a non-zoom lens.

The first three at the end of the blog were the only zoom-oriented shots that gave me something decent (out of almost 300 images taken) and the last one is my favorite but again could easily have been taken with a wide angle lens.

While photographically speaking, the experiment was a failure, mentally it wasn’t so. It taught me to try and look at things in a way that I wouldn’t normally do. When I was on point, I was looking for something that only a zoom lens could pull off. And so I had to step out of my comfort zone and imagine things differently.

OK, so I didn’t get anything magical, but I did stretch my brain in the trying.

I also did force myself away from my safety blanket. When I travel with different cameras and lenses, they comfort me with the likelihood that whatever event unfolds in front of me, that I hopefully will have the right equipment to take the shot.

In this case, I was willing to give up on that likelihood, knowing that I might miss something of significance. This is a very uncomfortable position for someone like me. I like to feel that I have the bases covered, or at least potentially do.

Anyway, I hope you find something of interest within these four images. They haven’t been touched up or anything … enjoy.

I drove home in a state of mild annoyance. I knew that I had mostly failed.

And at the same time there was mild sense of pride in having attempted.

It was the latter feeling that led to where I am this morning; sitting here writing this blog.

I know I have said it before in differing ways, but trying something has a value all of its own. Much more so than achieving, at times.

When we achieve something, it reinforces our belief or confidence in having tried.

But trying (and failing) helps us to look at ourselves in a different way. We look to see what we have learned from the experience and how we might do differently, next time.

This is the seed of our growth and if we water it with appreciation for our efforts, we can truly develop ourselves over time.

I know now, for example that unless I am willing to overcome my shyness and point a zoom lens at people doing things of interest, I have no purpose in bringing a zoom lens downtown. Unless, of course, I am on an ass-crack project of some sort.

So my future choice is clear … gain confidence or leave the lens at home.

Whenever we try something that takes us away from our own feeling of comfort or knowledge, we take a step into the unknown. I remember a million years ago, when I worked for Bosch Telecom, stepping into my bosses office and he had one of those inspirational poster thingies on his wall. It said “whenever we step into a dark room, we are confident of one of two things. Either there will be a floor underneath our step or we will learn to fly”.

The fact that I still remember that saying 30 years later, tells me that I have bought into that philosophy and I have.

We each have our dark rooms and sometimes we stumble in them or even trip over something. We might even get hurt when we fall.

But regardless of what we find in the room, we at the very least are left to understand what was behind that door. And we can therefore move forward with the knowledge.

I guess my suggestion for the day is to never leave an unopened door behind you on your life’s journey. All doors lead somewhere.

…. just a thought.