I’m always being told that playing golf (like photography for that matter) requires a certain Zen frame of mind. I’m beginning to understand that, and I’m beginning to allow myself to enjoy the game, in spite of all the slices, shanks, three and four putts, or lost balls. There’s a course near where we live that’s both beautiful and difficult, where going after an out-of-bounds ball might mean rappeling into a canyon or coming face-to-face with a rattlesnake. I’ve had to hit around large bucks and coyotes lounging in cool, grassy areas next to fairways. Once, I witnessed a bobcat trot past me down the cart path toward the clubhouse. And yet…..the game, or how well one plays the game, can get under the skin. More than once, I’ve heard other players’ loud expletives echoing throughout the hills. Sometimes those expletives have been mine. I’ve seen other players throw clubs, but I’ve never seen the results of someone breaking a club over a tree trunk, until recently. Angry golf is not fun, and it’s the furthest one can get from a Zen state of mind. The day I found this broken club was during one of my best games, a game where I was able to stay in that Zen place from the first hole to the eighteenth. So, I keep this image to remind me of the importance of maintaining a certain level of detachment, something useful in other areas of life as well. But on the golf course, I’m reminded of Kevin Spacey’s character in the film American Beauty, who says “It’s hard to stay mad when there’s all this beauty in the world.”
Travel always provides opportunities to see new things, capture new things. The dark side to that is the self-induced pressure to see and capture everything. I’ve discovered a sense of greediness in wanting to capture it all, a greediness that can rob one of the immediacy of any moment.
Recently, my husband and I visited the island of Kauai in Hawaii. It’s a beautiful, lushly green island, and also a challenge to photograph given unpredictable weather conditions involving rain and wind. So, you get what you get. Even with a tripod, nature doesn’t always stand still. WIthout a tripod, the excitement of capturing an image may translate through the camera and produce a subject that is out of focus. Those two things combined contribute to me having to toss the majority of my photos from the trip, although a few photos remain. Those remaining images are precious reminders about stilling oneself when one stands before a subject, particularly a beautiful subject…..and there were many of those on Kauai. When I expressed my thoughts about this image greediness to a photographer friend, his advice was to slow down and “trust.”
Such greediness also reminds me of those photography theorists who insist that camera-wielding tourists act as empirialist agents, committing acts of violence through the innocent eye of the camera. Many times I disagree with that, particularly when one’s subjects are not people. Still, spending time on an island once inhabited by Polynesian peoples whose land and culture were stolen and fetishized by white Western culture, I was much more sensitive with regard to where I pointed my camera. However, when capturing this image of the Buddhist statue ringed with a leaf lei that sat inside the entrance of a local bookstore, I felt a profound reverence for both the statue and its location inside a place I consider one of my temples. I “took” the photo, but the image gifted me with a sense of serenity.
So, how does one remain serene with camera in hand? How does one both be in the moment while capturing the moment? It’s a balance I still strive to master.