Friday, December 22, 2006
Taking pictures with my dad
Havre des Iles, Laval, Quebec, December 2006 [Click to embiggen]
On a cold, clear night, I stand alone on my parents' high-rise balcony and stare out over a quiet landscape. I hover over my tripod-mounted camera, scanning wordlessly and hoping something will soon catch my eye. My father steps outside and pulls on his jacket. He immediately begins pointing out scenes of interest. I nod my head dismissively as he rattles them off: Houses with Christmas trees? Check. The highway in the distance? Got it. The hydro towers? Sure.
The photographer in me takes note of his suggestions. Truthfully, none of them would have occurred to me to begin with. They strike me as standard, cliche-type images, and at first I don't much see the point.
But as we continue to toss ideas back and forth across the tiny balcony, it dawns on me that this isn't about photography at all. Sure, I'm taking pictures, but I'm having a moment with my father that, frankly, I have never had. Suddenly, the pictures no longer matter as much as the fact that I'm able to share something I love to do with him.
So I begin to work my way through his suggestions, composing each one carefully, metering it, then stepping aside so he can take a look through the viewfinder before I trip the shutter. Afterward, we review each one on the camera's screen, then I adjust the settings for subsequent exposures. As I work the controls, I explain what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and what I hope the outcome will be.
After I finish capturing the last of his suggestions - a series of lights beside the water - I notice a tree immediately to the right of that spot. It's almost imperceptibly lit by a security light across the water. I can barely see it, and it's anything but spectacular. But my eye likes the way it reflects out over the water, and the way it covers an abandoned dock. My gut tells me I can get the shot. I share my thoughts with my father.
Dad: No way you'll ever get that picture. It's too dark.
Me: Wanna bet?
I set up for a 30-second exposure, and the result appears above. The invisible became visible. The impossible became possible. And I came home with far more than a mere picture. Looks like I'll be going back to my parents' balcony soon.
Your turn: Photography is usually a solitary activity. But do you shoot with others? What's it like?