Gimps and revelations

It was during the Year of the Gimp that I received the Great Autumn Revelation.

I can say “gimp” because I’m referring to myself. A torn meniscus sidelined me a year before my knee surgery and nearly a year afterward. Right about in the middle, as autumn approached, my camera and I began to panic.

Changing ColorsA gimpy photographer is under a severe handicap. But when it happens during Autumn, panic escalates. How, I wondered, was I ever going to manage those climbs to the ridges on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail, to the hills above the state parks, in order to capture those wonderful panoramas of color? How was I going to celebrate with my lens that very favorite season of mine?

The answer was simple: I had to adjust my outlook. So, I developed my theory, “one leaf at a time,” which turned into a mantra that I’ve shared with other photographers. It has changed the way I look at autumn.

Panoramas are breathtaking. But so is that one cluster of leaves, layered on top of each other, growing on the tree in my front yard. Acres of maples  in myriad hues are irresistible, but a single head of ripened grass, baked golden in the sun, is full of wondrous details.

The Revelation extended peripherally, too. When it’s not yet autumn, but I’m itching for color, I learned to turn my lens to the one single leaf that had changed, ignoring the green everywhere else. I didn’t have to wait for “peak color” to find something to fill the viewfinder. Someone looking at that photo has no idea there wasn’t any color anywhere else.

Fall VisionsAs I began to examine autumn more closely,  I found nuances unnoticed when bowing before panoramas. I saw, for instance, that breaking the rules and shooting into the sun, with the blue sky as a background, allowed light to shine through the leaf and reveal its inner glow.

And, perhaps a very important sidebar, I relearned to appreciate my tripod. In order to get close-ups of leaves on trees, I needed to extend my lens, and in order to do that in the face of autumn’s almost-constant breeze, I needed the tripod to steady my hand and capture sharp details.

In the midst of this Great Autumn Revelation, I’m reminded of a friend of mine who took his camera and his car and went out to find a great photo. He was gone half the day, and when he came back, he was disgruntled.

“I didn’t find a thing,” he said. “There’s just not that much color.”

He’d never stopped driving, he’d never left his car and, above all, he’d never really LOOKED. I’d be willing to be there was color and detail everywhere, but he didn’t want to savor the details. He wanted to be wowed by the razzle-dazzle of entire hillsides on fire.

I like razzle-dazzle, too. But when I can’t have it, either because it just isn’t there, or because I can’t get to it, I’m happy to take my color in small doses.

That’s a mighty fine lesson for us gimps to learn.


About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
This entry was posted in autumn, Human behavior, Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gimps and revelations

  1. blb1 says:

    You have always had the best photo’s and those on this page prove it. I just put a ‘fall’ gathering on my flickr page. 🙂

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