Vail Daily column: Are we unplugged?
As a photo enthusiast I am always looking at the light; bright light, flat light, side light, reflected light, direct light, shaded light, sunrises, sunsets, twilight, starlight, etc. As a wise man once said, “Photography is all about light.”
It wasn’t always that way for me, but since I began taking pictures I view light very differently. And with the aid of my ever-faithful Canon camera I’ve learned the best light for creating memorable photographs is frequently evanescent — sometimes it may last for just minutes.
But last September, on a particularly flawless late afternoon in the Pacific Northwest, the light was almost surreal. Those who’ve been know the weather in that part of the country can be capricious to put it mildly, but on this day as the sun was setting over the ocean the sky was, in a word, breathtaking.
From horizon to horizon the firmament above was aglow while the ever-moody Pacific with its teal blue-green water reflecting the sky’s colors was tranquil … a truly luminous moment.
But as any photographer understands, light changes quickly and I knew the deepening blue tones and burnt orange hues would soon diminish; so after capturing a few images, I sat down on the sand next to my camera and tripod and admired the Lord’s creation.
My wife and I were visiting Cannon Beach, Oregon, where I had been taking photos of Haystack Rock. There were dozens of people about — many were taking a stroll while others were jogging down the beach at the end of this glorious day when I noticed a group of about a dozen or so people siting in lawn chairs facing the ocean and this incredible scene. But to my amazement, not a single person was looking up; each was looking at his or her digital device. It was if they couldn’t be bothered by the spectacle before their eyes.
With tripod and camera off to the side I felt like yelling, “Put down your phones and look at the three dimensional world we live in,” but I knew I would be ignored and regarded as a lunatic or even worse, a nerd photographer, if I did.
It was then that I noticed a boy I guessed to be about 10 or 12 years old, who was smiling and quite happily drawing in the sky with his finger. It appeared he had Down’s syndrome. I stopped and spoke with the youngster’s mother and mentioned how wonderful that her son was so aware of the patterns and colors in the sky.
The mother smiled and replied, “Oh, he doesn’t miss a thing. My husband and I also see things a bit differently now because of him. Yes, it’s a gorgeous sunset. I guess as a photographer you notice these things, too.
As I walked away from the mother and her son I thought about those dozen or so people preoccupied with “a device” and missing one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen, while one child who some would consider having an intellectual disability, seeing so clearly.
That moment has stayed with me. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite; I own a desktop and a laptop, an iPhone and all sorts of annoying devices that change at a pace beyond our pre-programmed biological speed limit. I also realize these changes are made to meet the advances of society, but they also fill the coffers of the manufacturers who keep us ever on edge that we might (Heaven forbid!) miss some new artifact of technology.
I recall thinking to myself on that magical afternoon, something is out of balance here. But then if not for my hobby of photography and my continual search for light, I too could have been sitting in one of those lawn chairs reading text messages or Googling whatever had caught my fancy that day.
Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries; too often it’s filled with tedium, responsibilities and un-pleasantries. And yes, it is frequently necessary to use our energies just getting through each day, making it easy to forget that our time on earth is finite, and each moment we fritter away on our iPods and iPhones are moments we can never retrieve.
Perhaps it’s my advancing years, but the older I get the more I understand that an essential part of life is also stopping to smell the roses — or stopping to look at the sun setting over the ocean.
Quote of the day: “Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of.” — Charles Richards
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.