Low and Close

Low and Close March 29, 2006

For as long as I can remember I’ve maintained a list of things I really want to do before I die. Up until this point I have been unable (read: unwilling) to do most of those things because I have been too busy trying to accomplish all the things I am supposed to be doing in life (you know, college, marriage, children, career, graduate degrees . . . this is suddenly making me feel very tired).

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that this is truly a pointless exercise as, if I try to keep up this pace I will most certainly work and work and work . . . and then I’ll die.

Which, of course, will happen to all of us.

But I got to thinking that if I don’t stop to smell the flowers along way then I might miss a few of the things on my short list.

I won’t reveal my whole wish list (have to maintain some mystery, you know) but I will tell you that I have always wanted to learn how to take really good photographs. To this end my husband Mark gave me a gift certificate to take a day-long class with Washington Photo Safari—you know, to try my hand at the shutter and see what happened. (You can see some of my results here. Don’t steal them, as, having taken this class, I am now a professional. And, if you count this blog, published.)

Our small class began the adventure near the Corcoran Gallery of Art and immediately we learned a few critical pieces of information.

First, every single one of us in the class was holding our camera incorrectly. Horribly incorrectly, to be exact. I can’t reveal how you should hold your camera as this is a closely guarded secret of professional photographers (take the class!). Suffice it to say I no longer hold my camera incorrectly. I also learned some interesting things about light and composition, framing and color (oh, that sounds so sophisticated, doesn’t it?).

One thing in particular we learned was that in order to take a good picture you have to remember to see your subject clearly and get low and close.

The teacher made us repeat this mantra over and over (low and close, low and close . . . ); he snuck up behind us and yelled it; he made us kneel, sit, lay on the ground to demonstrate.

You see, he said, you can’t really see something clearly unless you get as close as possible to whatever it is you are studying. And never . . . NEVER shoot down at something. Always get yourself on the same level as whatever you are photographing . . . the same level or lower, in fact.

“Don’t you remember what it means in the English language,” he asked us, “to look up to someone? When you capture an image on film you are marking a moment, registering an identity. You are giving what you see respect.”

I’m glad I took the class; I learned a lot. I’m pretty sure that, in addition to never holding my camera wrong ever again, I could pretty much take that low and close rule and apply it liberally to every area of life.

Just try it:

What is in need of my attention? Low and close. Aren’t those cherry blossoms gorgeous? Low and close. Who needs me to listen? Low and close. Sometimes God seems so far away. Low and close. That church member is driving me nuts. Low and close. I have ten minutes to be quiet and pray. Low and close. I am so happy right at this moment I think I could cry. Low and close.

Life is beautiful, isn’t it? It took four hours of instruction this week to remind me that there is exquisite beauty, heart-breaking pain, tremendous hope and eternal potential all around us.

To see it clearly, though, well . . . you know . . . low and close.


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  • Will

    Hi Amy

    WoW you got some wonderful pictures… Looking forard in more pictures… Plus Amy Calvary should have a picture of the week. A day or time… The life of Calvary Memebers.

  • A. Lin

    Wow! What great photographs! I am so glad you tackled something on your ultimate to-do list. Great spiritual reflection, too.

  • Pink Shoes

    Those are really fabulous pictures… and since, as of a few weeks ago, I actually know where they are, you brought back great memories of a beautiful weekend! Thanks!

  • Stacy

    I really enjoyed your article and photos especially since I did the same photo safari with a friend last spring. Great to see the different photos that you made from the same sites I visited. I also really liked the way that you applied the “low and close” to life in a spiritual sense. I will try to remember that with my young children. :)