The Girl took a few shots during our afternoon walk.
I took an old lens last night — a 50mm 1.8 from an old Nikon — and put it on our D300 body. I don’t know why: the thing didn’t work with our D70, so why would it work with our newer model? Simple: the D300 has an aperture lever, which means I can actually dial in a given aperture and the camera knows which setting I’ve selected and can compensate the exposure accordingly.
The results were shockingly sharp. It’s too bad the thing is virtually impossible to focus with the lens being manual everything and the camera lacking a focusing plane.
It’s another reason to love Nikon: a 20+ year lens works with a modern, digital SLR.
I occasionally look through old pictures from the years I lived in Poland and find a picture that I’d forgotten about but which moves me to mutter to myself, “Wow.” Not that I’m so terribly impressed with my own photography, but more that I’m surprised to see by the reminder of how utterly different my life in Poland in the mid- to late-nineties was.
After several days of rain, days of grey skies that look identical at ten in the morning and three in the afternoon, days of — let’s be honest — Polish-looking skies, the bright light of the dawn this morning literally stopped me mid-step. A ribbon of yellowish, pinkish, orange light (at least to this colorblind fellow) stretched across the backyard, with a muted blue sky rising above.
It was a day of clarity. The Girl, clearly growing older, conquered her first extended Lego-building session. Sure, there was a lot of help, but that was to be expected: the lower age on the box is still a year beyond Lena’s experience. We worked together, exploring the wonder of perspective drawings in instructions, how one could position the in-progress creation just right beside the instructions and see exactly where the next blocks belonged. By the end, I was only checking; she was doing the building.
Relationships clarified themselves further. That the Girl loves her little brother has been obvious from the start, but today she was able to sit and actually play with him for extended periods without the silly five-year-old drama (after all, she’s six now) that made every other playtime an exercise in self-entertainment for the Girl. Today, she seemed truly interested in helping E enjoy himself. Until the end, when the silly L returned. But still, progress. Growth.
And in the evening, with the clouds still at bay (they’re scheduled to return this weekend), the moon shone clearly through the branches of the trees, turning this morning’s watercolor into an etching. I went out with the intention of doing some bracketed shots for an HDR shot.
In the end, after merging the photos and doing the requisite tone mapping, I realized the original was better. It whispered the hints of mystery that have kept the generations looking upward and feeling comforted by the clarity.
We saw them in the morning as we were heading to summer ballet: a company from Georgia was digging up portions of the street and shoulder to lay pipe. There were various vehicles for digging, grading, and flattening, and I proposed, “After ballet we could walk up here and watch them use those big machines.”
We decided it might be a good photo opportunity, so I took our big camera and L took our small camera, telling jokes on the walk to the top of our street where we’d seen them working. I hoped it might inspire the Girl to take pictures of something other than the ground, her favorite subject.
When we arrived, though, the workers had already left. Their various tractors stood idle, some of their cabs enclosed in pad-locked sheets of metal. “Perhaps they begin early in the morning to avoid the heat,” I suggested. Still, we decided to look around, first examining an old Ford tractor’s street brush attachment.
“Know what this is for?” I asked.
“It’s wire!” was the answer.
“Yes, but what do you think they use it for?”
A shrug. “Dunno.” (Where did that come from? Where does she pick up all these things? Is she a sponge?)
“They use use it to clean the street.” I paused. “Funny, huh?”
Giggles for a moment, then she exclaimed, “I need to take a picture of that.” She took two, both of them fairly well composed for the Girl’s thrust-camera-forward-and-click photo composition method.
And of course, being the photo-geek I am, I had to take a picture of her taking pictures.
“Why is it blue?” she asked.
“Because they wanted to make it your favorite color” I replied. She gave me that look she’s now mastered that says clearly, “There’s no way I believe that.”
She clarified: “But why isn’t it all blue?”
“I don’t know,” I responded, hoping that would be the end of it. Accepting the limits of my knowledge is something that takes time for the Girl. Later in life, we refer to this as the realization of one’s father’s mortality; for now, it’s simply impossible that Tata doesn’t know everything.
Yet I do know how to operate a camera, and lately L has become more aware of being the object of photos, and so it was today. Pictures were posing events.
New locations, new shots. New questions, new fears overcome. Each day with the Girl can be filled with surprises.
And there was even a bit of role playing.
We spent the evening with adult friends, which means the Girl got to watch more television than she normally does. In a string of semi-guided clicks and choices, she ended up watching a made-for-TV “family” movie, Princess: A Modern Fairy Tale. It was a typical modern story, with a couple of lines of almost-sexual innuendo that I decided I would sit with the Girl and watch a fairly simplistic story about a “princess” (I never quite understood why she had to be a modern-day “princess” in an American urban center other than the fact that it allowed others to think her a freak.) who in fact is the healer for all the mythical creatures that in fact aren’t: in other words, unicorns, mermaids, and fairies actually exist but a handful of people are aware of the simple fact.
At one point, there was a scene with a hydra-like creature attacking an unbeliever (who quickly came to believe in hydras, unicorns and such), and as quickly as one could imagine, the Girl was in my arms.
“I’m scared,” she said.
I went through the usual statements of fact — “It’s just a movie” and the like — but I knew what was coming at bed time.
“Daddy, I think I need someone to sleep with me,” she said in all earnestness. I comforted her, assured her of the safety of our home, and a thousand other things. She calmed down, but a few minutes later she called me back, in tears. After repeating the process, I returned a few minutes later to find her sound asleep. I wondered briefly at the fears she had held at bay long enough to drift to sleep, and I realized what a brave girl she can be.
After the Boy’s six o’clock feeding, nothing soothes his nerves (and K’s) like a walk. Without K. Or the Girl. So the three of us head out alone, I with the Boy, the Girl with our little point and shoot camera.
It’s a fairly standard route we take. Usually, the only question is direction, and in the late afternoon, the sun dictates counter-clockwise. And so we begin with the mysterious flowers that have been blooming for a week now and the daily request: “Daddy, can I pick a flower?” The bush hangs over an embankment, with thorns and danger swirling around it.
“How about a picture?” I suggest.
“Okay,” she chirps, then explains that today, she’s going to focus on pictures of nature.
Yet when we get home, we see that there was another motif that crept its way steadily into the eighty-some pictures she snapped along the half-hour walk: the road.
Endless pictures of the road. The road and the grass beside; the road and our feet; the road and her foot; the road with crumbling asphalt; the road with new asphalt; the road without lines; the road with lines.
“Why so many pictures of the road?” I want to ask, but I know the answer. “I don’t know.”
I remember taking pictures that way: not really sure why I was taking that particular picture, but somehow certain that the photo would reveal something not immediately observable in reality.
After all, isn’t that the motivation behind most modern art? If Marcel Duchamp can display a signed urinal as modern art, isn’t a food processor on the side of the road at least as deserving of artistic attention?
Surely, at the very least, a dog’s urinal is art.