© 2009 ~ Betsy S. Franz – All rights reserved. Note: This article was written and previously published in 2009.When I was growing up, my father was an avid photographer. This was long before digital cameras and photo-taking cell phones made every lifetime event a potentially permanent one.
In my youth, capturing memories required a bit more thought and preparation. Film and flashbulbs had to be purchased, photos were taken and then the eager viewers had to wait for developing and printing. Without the benefit of being able to instantly review one’s shots, some people’s family memories often consisted of blurry unrecognized scenes, glowing red eyes or worse, chopped off heads or other body parts. But not in my family.
To my father, taking photos was more than a way of recording special events. It was an art. My father was not content with the early point and shoot cameras that were as convenient as dropping in a film cartridge and snapping away. My dad used a camera that required the manual setting of focus and aperture. Dimly lit shots required the use of a tripod. And to insure that the finished products were what he intended them to be, my father even developed and printed his own shots in a basement darkroom.
As kids, we weren’t all that excited with his hobby. It seemed like he was always lurking nearby, camera in hand, ready to interrupt our activities with cries of “Say Cheese!” and the popping of flashbulbs. Special occasions, such as blowing out candles on cakes and opening Christmas presents were slowed down to allow proper framing and lighting. Even events as private as a first kiss or motherly hug often appeared in photographs that we never even knew were being taken.
As I grew into a teen, I began to look at his photos in a new way. I was enthralled with the way that he seemed to be able to capture just the right mood with the careful use of lighting and shadows. The facial expressions seemed to tell entire stories. However, it was his nature and wildlife photos that really changed my life. Looking into his photos allowed me to see things that I hadn’t bothered to notice on my own. Water could be either powerful or serene. Light could be both ominous and inspiring. Something as mundane as a leaf-covered path held unlimited colors, intricate details and miniature worlds of wonder. His photos taught me to not look at things superficially, but to dig deep into the sights around me. In effect, his photos taught me to see.
I was only 20 when my father passed away. A few months before he died, he gave me one of his favorite cameras and a book on how to take photos. That camera, and the many that have succeeded it, have been my constant companions over the years.
I love to thumb through our old family photo albums and relive the times of my life. My mother used to call these albums her walk down memory lane and they were a constant source of pride to her. With every flip of the page, my thoughts to my father are “thanks for the memories.”
But even more important to me than this careful chronicle of my past is the gift that my father gave me for noticing the present.
And so, today, I am going to take my camera outside and spend the day with thoughts of my dad. I’ll take my camera off of full-auto mode and remember the things he taught me about aperatures and shutter speeds. I’ll slow down and look at things closely, wandering around until I see just the right angle with just the right light. I'll try to see the world the way my father taught me to see it. I'll look for the beautiful side of things. And I'll be thankful that I was taught how to see it.