Manual Mode

Photo Apr 27, 6 28 04 PMI often look around and wonder how people have gotten to where they are. On the surface it often feels like luck, a golden thread randomly woven into their fabric of life. There were many years of my life, sitting back in a protective cacoon, wondering when that thread of luck might weave its way into my life, too. It was a frustrating place, one of observation and envy, one of an almost consuming powerlessness.

An overwhelming question for me has always been what do I want to really do? I remember being captivated by one of my high school English teachers and her passion for literature and writing and the craft of teaching. She filled the room and shone an incandescent sort of light on a weary lot of overachieving seniors, but in the midst she drew out our creativity, our depth of thinking, and the writers we could one day be.

It was then that I decided to teach English. I wanted to be like her; I wanted to fill the room with my passion. I wanted to read and write and teach. Or so I thought. An introvert by nature, a quiet person who isn’t one to typically fill any room, my experience in the classroom always fell flat. It wasn’t one of passion, but struggle; not a time of joy, but frustration and regret. From that first year of teaching, I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be.

So the question has persistently loomed. I was talking to my stepdaughter, a college sophomore, several weeks ago, and as she is embarking on a similar search, I found myself recanting my choices and paths. And as it almost always happens in writing about a given situation, in stumbling through my advice to her, I found a gem of advice to me, too.

I explained my admiration of my teacher; I explained my frustration with my reality of teaching, and my own perceived failures there, and without any preconceived intentions, I found myself explaining to her that admiring my teacher did not mean that I was to teach.

Instead it was the passion I should have emulated: the way her eyes sparkled, the joy she held for her work, the momentum she created, the work she gladly put into making a happy space in her life.

I took myself by so much surprise in that statement that I had to pause to allow it to register, and since that conversation over dishes and dinner preparation, I have felt more empowered to make my own way. Rather than living with a sense of listlessness and confusion in what the future holds, I see that it was up to me all along to bravely mark the trail towards what will make me most happy.

In the past year, I’ve been working on my writing and my photography. I know those will both figure into my future. They are both what I love with the same passion I witnessed all those years ago in room 123. I have been more intent with photography in our photowalks and in finding the courage to finally explore this piece of my heart, I also found the courage last week to make some important decisions.


From my first family shoot with the Dunn family.

My typical mode of operation is to sit back and hope things show up. And sometimes they do. A friend asked me to take her family portraits in March, and while I spent a bit of time feeling like a fraud, I also realized, once again, that we all have to start from the beginning. One of my dearest friends has asked me to take engagement and wedding pictures. All of this is an incredible chance to move forward, but last week I decided I have to make some changes on my own, too.IMG_5458

If this dream of photography is to become a reality, I have to shift into manual mode in my life. I have to make the changes, take the steps, and find the courage to walk along the path from these humble beginnings. After making this quiet promise to myself, I confessed them to a friend, who then talked to her friend. Within a day, I had a connection with a local professional photographer who is willing to mentor me, guide me, and bring me along on shoots. I am so grateful for the chance to watch and learn and for friendly professionals who want to help beginners along the way!

Shifting into manual mode. In life. And also with my camera. I have been relying on AV (Aperture Value) most of the time. The camera does part of the work, and I can choose a few settings. It’s not entirely shooting in Auto, but it doesn’t unlock the camera’s power completely. Starting now, I’m moving my camera to manual and taking a class on exposure and metering methods. Our photowalks are going to be less haphazardly shot and more intentional with a focus on sharpening my skills and mastery of all of the buttons on my camera. I’m expecting a learning curve and maybe a few dicy pictures, but in the end I know this is what I need to do to move forward.

And one day, the goal is to shoot professionally and independently. To take the humble beginnings of my first family shoot and make them become something even grander. Colored with joy and happiness and filling the room (and my heart) with passion.