Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Definition of Amazing

I'm the type of person/mother that constantly has a camera glued to their right hand (I was going to say glued to their face, but that reference seems a bit archaic now), so naturally Toby has had his curiosity piqued as to what that 'thing' is that Mom is so protective of. About a year ago he took great delight in being allowed to push the arrow buttons to see all the photos I've taken. About half a year ago he started to ask to hold the camera and take a picture. I let him take a few blurry pictures of garden dirt before declaring that the 'batteries needed to sleep for a bit so let's tuck the camera back in the bag.'
Now he's taken to sitting on the couch while I'm busy in the kitchen and take my camera out of the bag and turn it over and over trying to figure out how to turn it on.
I've been wanting to get him a kid's camera for a while now, but I never know how 'worth it' those things are. How much is toy and how much is decent camera?
Luckily this pondering coincided with my sister getting a new point-and-shoot camera to replace her 'ancient' one (featuring BOTH Digital screen AND Viewfinder, so as not to force you into technology's advancement too quickly!!). She said that if I could put up with the batteries only lasting for half-an-hour, Toby could use it.
I'd had it sitting on my counter in a pile of stuff for almost a month, and today as Toby crawled up on the couch and started riffling through my purse to find my camera for the first time in ages, I pulled out this old one of Shannon's.

I turned it on and the first thing that Toby did was press the shutter. Click, close up picture of the couch cushion. I directed him to hold the camera up and look at what he was taking a picture of and only press the shutter when he really wanted to take a picture, not just because you want to every 3 seconds.

"Mom I see a ladybug!!" Click.
(Can you find it?)

After 6 pictures of the ladybug and one of a squirrel on the bird feeder, he ventured off into the living room with a gigantic grin on his face.

Click, the rug.
Click, The ceiling.
Click, blurry close-up of a pillow.

"Hold on Toby, hold on. It's great you're enthusiastic, but really try to 'think' about what you want a picture of. Look at the screen and watch what you're doing.
He scanned the room.
"Like the STAIRS!" Click.


Next I lined up some of his cars, thinking that this would be a good 'focus' for picture taking.

I sat on the couch, still not really awake, and let him wander around taking random pictures of house plants and flies.
Some stuff wasn't even too bad.


 Fly swatter.

Parental unit.


30 pictures have gone by now, so I tried to direct his focus again.

"Toby, really try to pick just one thing, and then take a picture of it, instead of just pointing the camera at everything. Try and think "This looks amazing" before you go to take a picture."

He stopped and scanned the room again.
"This looks amazing" He whispered.
Click, top of the chair.

I know that teaching the art of photography to a three year old is maybe far-fetched, but I want him to have a sense of WHY we take photos. Before digital cameras I never would have just given a role of film to a toddler to 'waste'. I feel that while digital photography allows us a 'do-over' period, it still shouldn't be 'wasted' or the point of photography is lost.

But as I propped my head on my hand and watched as Toby searched the room for anything he hadn't photographed yet, I realized what I had just said to him.
Take pictures of 'amazing' things.
He's three. He hasn't had time the be jaded by REAL amazing things.
The fact that he can operate a camera is amazing enough to him. And when I look back through his photos, when was the last time I looked at my Rosemary like that?? When was the last time I thought a fly swatter was worth photographing?
Yes they're all out of focus and blurry, but is that really HIS fault or just the fact that the camera doesn't know how to focus on what he wants?
When you look past the technicalities, I do think he's taking pictures of things that fascinate him.
A tunnel of rosemary, the texture of the rug, a 'burst' of flower stems,
a circular tree root,

bottles in the window, 

plates in the window, 

the colour of books.

And at the end of it all, there are about 6 good pictures from the 52 that he took. Isn't that the same with all great photographers?
The point of the exercise was to learn to LOOK at what you're SEEING, not to take an award winning photo.
And I think Toby and I both learned a bit today.

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