“The meaning of life is that it stops.” Franz Kafka
Dead Center is Deadly says photographer Rick Sammon, referring to obeying the rules of composition. He strongly (obviously) suggests you don’t put objects in the center of the frame because it’s boring, and because there are so many other ways to do it.
Its might seem simple enough to find a young sunflower in her prime and take a photo, but even though the light is fading fast you should consider these rules of composition: the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, the rule of odds, negative space, filling the frame, balance, leading lines and symmetry.
Maybe take one shot using each rule, then mix and match until it either gets too bright, too dark, it rains or you get kicked out of wherever you are. Then take the RAW files home and edit them according to the rules of editing: white balance, exposure, noise reduction, etc, etc, etc.
I’ve heard rumors in back alleys and pool halls that there are people who take photos with their compact camera or phone and upload them as shot, but I’m sure they’re just rumors. Of course this is not fight club and breaking the rules will not result in a beating. Unless Rick Sammon sees your photos, then you’re in trouble.
It was a beautiful morning as I headed to the Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown to visit the sunflower baby from my post Great Expectations. I was excited to see her progress over the last week and a half and expected a beautiful flower smiling at the sun.
I knew exactly where she was because last time I parked right in front of a sign that said Thou Shalt Not Park Here. And as I got out with camera and tripod to wait for the light I saw total devastation, someone had cut all of them down and left nothing but stems.
My first thought, logically, was that The KKK took my baby away; they took her away, away from me. The KKK took my baby away, they took my girl, they took my baby away. Maybe because the Ramones were just on the radio as I pulled in, but it made sense.
As I stood there dumbfounded, a waitress walked up and explained that they cut them down to put on the tables as decorations, oh. So I asked her how I could see the miracle of a single flower clearly if they keep cutting them down.
She said it was probably a good idea to appreciate them while they’re here and pointed to a small patch of new ones in between the wheat. I realized she was right, took a few photos and tried my best to see the miracle.
I suddenly caught a fleeting glimpse as the sun lit her up, and just as my whole life was beginning to change I slipped in the wet grass and fell on my butt. The flowers and the waitress thought this was hysterical, and at that moment I had an epiphany. Change is as hard and as messy as a muddy, rock filled field.
So today the only thing that changed was my pants, but tomorrow is another day and I’ll try again. Robin Sharma said that change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. I wish the waitress said that, it would have made my whole day.
In her book Everyday Zen Charlotte Joko Beck talks about having great expectations and searching for paradise. “It seems to us that paradise is lost,” she says. She goes on to say: “We have, if not great expectations, some hope that sometime paradise is going to appear to us.”
She concludes that “There is no paradise lost, none to be found. You cannot avoid paradise you can only avoid seeing it.” OK great, chop wood, read about enlightenment, and take photos of flowers.
Despite knowing that this baby sunflower is perfect as it is (thank you Miss Beck), I have great expectations for her. I expect her to become trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful…oh wait a minute that’s something else.
To roughly paraphrase Charles Dickens from his book Great Expectations: “I expect her to know the delights of freedom.” I’ll be back to take her photo in about a week, when the wind is as calm as clam shells and the light is as warm and fuzzy as my brain on Valium and Vodka.
Note: those conditions do not happen every morning.
I passed by a field today that was covered with beautiful sunflowers last summer. I met the owner and she told me they only plant them every other year, this year they planted corn. But I thought I saw some on the edge growing in between wheat and wildflowers.
I stopped to take a closer look and as sure as birth and death there they were. They weren’t planted but must have come from last years stray seeds, for all practical purposes they were reincarnated.
So I asked myself if they were reincarnated, what were their plans for this summer? Were they going to try to be better flowers, were they going to do things differently this time, were they going to savor every minute they were alive and just be themselves?
And my self answered that it wanted more coffee. Then it answered that it didn’t matter because once again they would stand there and be beautiful for a while, and eventually die and start all over again.
The Buddha (allegedly) said: “Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” So I took a few photos, got more coffee, and remembered the most important thing I’ve ever read by Charles Bukowski: “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” Yes.
So I’m driving around this morning thinking about Zeno’s Paradox of the tortoise and Achilles, when out of the corner of my eye I see the first sunflower of the season.
Back in April I discovered that from the withered tree, a flower does indeed bloom, but this was different, kinda-sorta. There, in a compost heap in front of an Amish barn was a single, beautiful four foot sunflower all alone smiling at the clouds.
I took several photos trying to find the best composition, but eventually decided to get up close and personal. What better way to celebrate the first day of summer than with an amazing flower growing up in the middle of dead grass and weeds?
Now if I can just find a tortoise to race that will give me a head start I can rest easy, once I win.
André Paul Guillaume Gide, French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature once said: “The color of truth is gray.” He also said: “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”
This is a baby sunflower I shot early this morning on my windowsill. The photo is not exactly the way I wanted it but it seemed right for me today.
Maybe nothing is perfect, maybe everything is, or maybe growth is understanding that things are not always exactly the way we want them to be, and that’s OK.
It’s been said that if we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. My plan it to continue to look.