No idea what prompted me to take this particular shot of my son holding a snail shell – but I do know I like it. I remember what was going on before and after, but during the shot I only remember the shot. By that I mean that I can tell you what my son and wife were talking about before and after the shot, what I was thinking about before and after the shot, what was going on around us, but during the shot I specifically recall nothing. Not that I don’t recall… I specifically recall the silence and peace of nothing. One hundred percent of my mind was in that shot. Not the technical bits… the actual shot… the image.
I recall the field we were in before the shot.
I recall the field we were in after the shot.
But during the shot we may as well have been in the vacuum of space. It’s not that I don’t recall the field – it’s that I recall NOT recalling the field.
There are a lot of theories about how your brain works. One is that your brain has evolved to filter out a significant amount of input from the world to prevent sensory overload – that your brain takes in just enough to then extrapolate the rest. There are various little visual games that demonstrate the basis for this theory, but suffice it to say that science is reasonably well convinced that our brains do a fair amount of filtering and gap filling to keep us humming along smoothly.
I have my own theory of how this presents in some of us – myself specifically, but perhaps other photographers as well.
More than once over the years I’ve had multiple people say to me that my brain never stops. I’m not going to lie and say I’ve always perceived this as a compliment, but I can say it has been a consistent observation by a variety of individuals.
I tend to take in everything – my brain apparently does a poor job of… well… its job. It doesn’t filter things out – it ALL comes in… and at times it is as overwhelming it sounds.
Perhaps that is why I prefer isolated subject and macro shots over landscape shots.
Perhaps that is why I tend to be drawn to black and white over color shots.
The only thing I can say for sure is that I have consciously observed a consistent pattern of quietude which coincides with all of my favorite shots.
There can be a thousand things going on in my head… and suddenly perfect peace… silence. I don’t feel that I really ‘see the shot’ so much as I ‘feel the silence’ which has become my unconscious signal that there is a shot to be captured – that I must capture. At that moment there is something in front of me that has completely and utterly captured my mind’s attention and everything else is pushed out to make room for that one think… and that one thing – the shot - fills my mind completely.
I’ve heard people say they feel something you might relate to a rush of adrenalin when they see the perfect shot. I think for me it is the exact opposite – I run full-bore most of the time and seeing the perfect shot calms my entire mind by clearing it of all else.
I can say I get the same thing when I conceive and pull together a layout or design that just really resonates with me and I can’t stop working on it until I have it fully developed – but then a lot of my design work stems from my photography.
Maybe that’s how it is for a lot of people, but it just seemed counter intuitive when I thought about it.
I find myself seeking that quiet - that calm of the perfect shot... and escape from the adrenaline of normal everyday life. Maybe that makes me an anti-adrenaline junky!?!
Maybe not – maybe I’m over thinking it… I should probably go out with the camera for a bit to clear my mind and then revisit this topic to really get a fresh perspective on it. ;)