How to photograph a lamppost


Evening. I am out on my walk. Bright sunlight. After a while I realise that the nature of the light has changed, has become filtered, surreal, like as if God had turned on the special-effects button. I look up at the sky. The sun was inching slowly towards the horizon but was hidden behind huge masses of clouds which looked like a cotton mattress had burst its seams and floated up into the sky. Out comes my mobile. No, I don’t have a hotline to the sun and neither to the clouds. But I do have a rather good camera on it. Point and click. Unfortunately, the sun was too much in my eyes and the viewfinder was in total shadow for me to see what I was clicking. The result is the picture seen above. Not a bad picture really, the glory of the light and the clouds has all been captured, except for the lamppost sticking out, like a sore thumb, into the celestial scene.

Looking at it, one would think that the lamppost was the celebrity being photographed. But no, I have made a photographic blooper here. Even though the viewfinder was in shadow, the real live scene was right in front of me, then how come I didn’t see the lamppost. Because I was too focused on the scene being played far in the distance to see what was in the near vicinity. I took it too much for granted. This happens all the time in life. We look high and low, far and wide for something and all the time it is right there, under our nose, staring up at us. All it takes is a slight shift in our perception to see that which we fail to notice.

Awareness is all about focus. We become aware of what we turn our attention towards. That is like stating the obvious. But have you noticed that our very lives consists of what is filling our awareness. The quality of our lives is entirely dependent on what we are focusing on. Let’s look at another scene. My garden. This is one place that is an endless source of joy, wonderment and peace for me. I experience the sight, touch, sounds, smells of the plants, trees, flowers, weeds, birds, insects and get transported into raptures of delight. But once in a while, I enter this same garden wearing a gardener’s hat. Hardy-gloved and armed with sundry gardening equipment, I potter around, digging and weeding and pruning, casting a critical eye at the health and well-being of its inhabitants. At such times, my focus is of an entirely different nature. And even though it can be argued that it is for the welfare of the flora, the practicality of my focus renders me almost entirely incapable of seeing the beauty of the scene and reveling in it.

So, I guess, it stands to reason, that we can change the quality of our lives by changing our attention. By changing, as it were, the nature of the seer.