52 Ways to Shift Your Focus

Shift #19: Practice Your Depth of Observation – Photograph Someone Else’s Big Event

Today’s shift in focus idea is literal.

Most of us have a camera of some sort, whether it’s a nice digital SLR, a point-and-shoot, or our cell phone. A lot of us take photos of our families and friends, our gardens, our dogs, stuff that shows up on our Facebook pages. We get practice, whether we know it or not, with framing what happens in our lives so we can present the parts we like best to others. Those parts are also the ones that reshape our memories years later as we sift through old photos. That early editing of our own lives creates the stories we want to keep.

Likewise, when we’re focused on a work-in-progress (WIP), we zero in on what we like best about it, what we think is working. It’s hard to step back far enough from our WIP or our lives to see what someone else sees.  But we can practice shifting our focus by thinking about how we would frame someone else’s life, what we see that interests us, and what we crop out.

The reason I’m thinking about this today is because I had the pleasure of photographing someone else’s big event this past weekend. My friend Luann did the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk in the Twin Cities with her team of three other women. I took photos of them all three days, at the beginning, at the end, at some of the cheering stations. This event was a big deal. For those of you who don’t know about the 3-Day, participants walk 60 miles over three days to raise money for a cure for breast cancer. Many of these people are survivors. They train for months before the walk, hold fundraisers, burn through training shoes, drink gallons of Gatorade and water. They let everyone they know in on what they’re doing, ask for support, raise awareness of breast cancer’s toll.

Many thoughts ran through my mind as I waited for Luann and her team to walk past wherever I stood over the weekend. The hundreds of walkers I watched wore flamboyant pink outfits (lots of tutus, decorated bras worn on the outside, and wild knee-high socks), danced when they heard music, waved at everyone, exhibited happiness that they were part of this huge event. Luann high-fived everyone she saw and hugged those who came to cheer specifically for her and her team. I was astonished at the amount of joy present in an event that came about because of cancer.

And that’s the part that I tried to catch with my camera. The joy. The people with smiles on their faces and their arms raised up in the air. The safety patrol in the pink tutu and the plastic pig nose. The motorcycle guys with large bras stretched across their windshields. The little kids who passed out candy. The way walkers who didn’t know me smiled and said thanks because I was one of the people who clapped to cheer them on for another few miles. The hundreds of people who showed up to cheer for all the walkers.

When I looked at the photos at the end of the weekend, it was the very last few, which I shot quickly, that struck me on the deepest level. I had been tightly focused on documenting the event for my friend so she would have a record to celebrate her accomplishment. But, at the end of the day on Sunday, I found myself walking behind Luann and her husband Galin as a group of us headed for our cars. On impulse, I picked up my camera and shot a few photos of them as they walked hand-in-hand. Luann and Galin had their heads tilted slightly toward each other, their hands held together with palpable tenderness. They walked as if there were no one else around them. That moment embodied all the reasons it was important for Luann to do a 60-mile walk in August in Minnesota.

Yesterday, Luann asked me if I could crop one of those a little bit for her. That is the photo she wants to frame.


My favorite safety patrol took time for the kids.
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