How many times have you heard/read someone say “It’s all in the eye” when it comes to photography? It’s a quote that’s tossed around so much in regards to the craft that it feels a bit like the “write what you know” cliché (which I can’t stand, but that’s beside the point). Still, I don’t disregard it because it’s the closest anyone gets to touching on the physical requirements to take a picture. If all you’ve ever done is held a compact point to your face and shoot, you might be surprised by the physical demands of photography. They gradually increase as you take on more challenging photo situations. This is especially true with outdoor photography. On top of that, well, the eyes do have it. It has taken me quite a long time to appreciate the true value of eye health when it comes to taking quality photos.
One thing that I don’t see addressed much anywhere is the involvement of your body in taking photos. Physical activity is a part of photography, whether it involves kneeling, walking between settings or even just balancing a camera properly. The other physical trait of photography is how your head feels. Remember the Memorial Day weekend post from last summer? When I went on the house tour in St. Paul, I ran into the door frame of my in-laws’ minivan and hit my head. It was painful, and I was only able to go on tour due to sheer luck (in-laws had ice in the car, and a nearby relative had abundant Advil). Even though I was able to stand up straight and wasn’t seeing double, I wasn’t completely right. I got pictures I liked, but I know that if I toured that part of St. Paul again my pictures would be a lot different because my head has been much better protected since that accident. Other injuries that have compromised my photography include knee problems, ankle twists and overexertion. I actually dealt with these types of problems when I went to Wisconsin Dells late last month (and will feature in a future journal entry), which lingered a bit during my Minnesota State Fair visit (which went very differently than in years past in terms of taking pictures). Injury and overexertion affect what you see, how your brain processes light and how you hold the camera. Even being uncertain about your physical state can take your mind off the subject in your viewfinder, compromising your shots. Actual injury will slow your reaction time, resulting in missed opportunities.
I have a feeling things will change when I finally get around to seeing an optometrist. Right now, I use no corrective lenses of any sort even though I’m a bit nearsighted. Hooray, accelerated academic track and all the tiny fonts those books entail for a 17 year old. Woot…or something. As a result, I have practiced photography with eyes that are not 100%. Truthfully, my vision is fairly strong without corrective lenses of any sort. That’s somewhat odd despite the fact that I had lazy eye as a kid and wore glasses during much of elementary school. Even so, I know I’m missing something. The eye exam will most likely result in a prescription for contacts; I would be extremely surprised if it didn’t. I imagine that my ability to process detail will become more precise, allowing me to manually focus with increased accuracy (an area where I have had some success but not a lot). It may also help me react more quickly when it comes to action photography of any sort (sports, marching bands, active animals, etc.).
Yes, it’s weird for anyone remotely interested in photography to discuss physical health. For me, it’s just a part of life. I was never a super athletic type. However, my health record has been somewhat spotty my whole life, so it’s hard not to catalog changes in my physical well being. I have found that I physically react when I’m taking pictures and have started to seriously consider the effect of health on my craft. Between lugging equipment, moving between venues and needing to react, photography requires a solid mind and body. ON that note, enjoy some pictures taken with a sound body and relaxed mind. Gotta love Como Park and Zoo!