Why I am not a photographer


I carry the camera with me on the road south. I want pictures of the small waterfall, run-off from spring rains and snow melt pouring cold and chattering down rock faces, on its way to the river that, full and churning now, follows the road.

I figure I’ll stop on my way to meet with the police chief, before we talk about small issues facing small towns, and how he ended up here at this town along the water.

But I don’t stop.

All the way down I draw pictures with words, note how dry reeds still clump on the muddy water’s edge, how bare branches of bushes dip dry heads down into the water. I think I’ll pull off on the way home, when there’s more space to stop than here, where the rising hill makes space tight.

But I don’t.

I guess that, right there, is why I’m a writer and not a photographer.

Often I read other blogs, and I notice the pictures that slip effortlessly in with words, and I resolve to take more pictures. I need to break up the text, I think. Words are always better with a picture.

I blamed my old point-and-shoot camera that hovered on the edge of life and death for my lack of pictures. If I could take good ones, without fighting with a camera that won’t focus, I would.

But I have the new camera now, and it’s smarter than I am. I try to put it on the manual setting and the photos are horrible. I put it back on auto. It adjusts lighting, tells me to please hold my hand still, finds the perfect focus, shoots.

But I still don’t stop when I’m driving down the road along the river bank. And I can’t tell you why, exactly. The waterfall is more of a trickle now, and I’m not sure if the picture will take well. Is this loop of the water more photogenic than the next?

And now I’m passing The Golden Pheasant with beer signs in the window and the river or creek or whatever it is has looped away from the road and I’ve missed it.

I don’t hesitate like that when it’s words. When I see a story or an image and it strikes some nerve deep inside me, I write it all out in my head, right then, right there. I’m not afraid to stop for a story, as I’m passing it by.

Sometimes, if the story lingers, I’ll write it here. Other times it drifts away. Sometimes it recedes a bit, but never quite leaves, and the next time I drive that way or take that phone call or sit in that meeting, it comes back, stronger.

I drove south on Monday night, when I found the little waterfall in the pouring rain. I drove that way again, today, and because the story lingered I would write it this time.

But I didn’t take any pictures. Not this time.

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2 Comments

Filed under Notebook sketches

2 responses to “Why I am not a photographer

  1. LaVell Welborn

    It’s obvious that you inherited your mother’s ability to write. What happened to her ability with a camera? She’s a natural, so gifted as a photographer. I’m sure, when you decide to try it, you’ll be just as good. You know the old saying, “An apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.” Keep that camera handy. The right time will come.
    Nana

  2. I don’t know, Nana! But it’s not so much that I can’t take decent pictures, it’s that I don’t think that way. I see something and I want to tell it with words, not with a camera. 🙂

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