Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Small Things Are What Make Life Worth Living

I am a detail person. I also believe that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, so doesn't it follow that the parts hold greater weight or more significance than we usually give them?

When it comes to storytelling, I have a (bad) habit of getting lost in ensuring that my audience understands exactly what happened, when, where, what it looked and smelled like, who said what and how the breeze felt blowing on my skin... I just have a desire for people to understand and experience what I did. And I have a memory like a steel trap. In fact, my girlfriends jokingly (sometimes) defer their storytelling to me. "You do it better, Heather." Or when I jump in and say, "...and then you said (insert inane detail here), remember?" they say, "How do you remember all of this?" or, "You weren't even there - I told you the story once!" This is usually accompanied with a gentle eye roll. The details are important to me! Aren't they to everyone?!

Even though I remember - and am compelled to share - every detail I can, this doesn't make me a good storyteller. There's so much in the timing and delivery that I don't have. Maybe that's why I prefer to capture the story visually, with photography?

The next few SOAR photography exercises that I'll post are on sharpening my storytelling. The first is about defining details. I didn't exactly follow the assignment in its entirety, which by the way, was from back in March. But I still want to share with you what I did. Capturing something important to the subject at their stage in life is what I was able to do. I was supposed to have two subjects, one young and an older one, shoot as low an f-stop as I could and at about 50mm. This forces you to fill your frame. I like this type of work; it reminds me a bit of the macro egg and flower work my mom did with her 35mm camera when I was little.

I was really looking forward to my young subject being Otto, my friend's day-old son, who was born right after the assignment was posted. But life doesn't revolve around SOAR assignments, it turns out. As I was pulling up to the hospital to do the newborn session, running through the poses and settings I planned on using, I learned that he was being airlifted to San Antonio because of some complications with his intestines. Otto's mom, Devon, is one of my oldest friends, so I quickly switched into sister-friend mode, said a prayer for the AirLife team flying to New Braunfels, for baby Otto and for the family, and went upstairs to hug my friend's neck and do what I could to help. Otto spent a few weeks in the hospital in San Antonio, had a necessary surgery, and is doing great today! We have plans to do some 6-month pictures of him, and I'm really looking forward to that!

Instead, for the exercise, I used one of my favorite subjects: my 6-year old. He is fascinated with building things. Legos, Beyblades, these weird Lego people called Hero Factory (seen below). One evening, he was playing on the floor of our living room, lining up his Heros like trophies, or perhaps preparing them for battle. This is a detail of his life right now that I wanted to capture, and not just because of the exercise. So I got down on the floor with him, asked him to tell me about each one and what made them special to him. These are moments and details I'll be able to remember forever now, or as long as I have this picture. I love that this picture has so much warmth in it - it feels like I'm sitting in my living room.

27mm ISO 800 f/2.8 1/6 sec

For my older subject, I chose to do what was suggested and use my husband. He loves cooking and is lucky to have me to cook for (ha). Actually, he's lucky to have parents who gifted him some amazing Shun knives this past Christmas. So I captured this part of him, cutting up a Meyer lemon I grew. If you look closely, you can see the waves in the metal, caused by the folding of the steel during the blade sculpting process. (but maybe not, since the picture size Blogger lets me display isn't very large)

52mm ISO 1000 f/2.8 1/40 sec

I have a couple more posts in the works, so I'll see you again soon!
Thanks for reading.

Love, Heather


  1. Storytelling is just the same as taking a photo, right? The background doesn't always need to be in perfect focus- and sometimes if it is the photo (story) just looks flat and it loses its dynamic quality. It's about focusing on the...focus. Or something like that...

  2. Yes, I think my focus has been off...