Seeing in the Same Light

Photographing wildlife is always a bit challenging for me because they tend to move fast and in unexpected ways. Those that happen to live in the water, even more so. I spent quite a bit of time trying to create something good with this river otter and even then, I’m cropping out a large part.

Light is an essential facette of photography and I thought I had a fairly good understanding of how it works, but it wasn’t until I spent the day at our local aquarium taking pictures through glass and water, that I began to see something I hadn’t really noticed before.

Here is the un-cropped picture:

Many of the photographs that day looked distorted and odd and I found out why. Because light moves slower in water, things will appear larger and of a different depth than it actually is. You can see that in this picture with his body. When you look at the entire picture, it almost looks like something is wrong with the otter. When he is either all the way under the water or all the way out of the water, he appears normal size. It is in seeing parts of him in different refracting light that gives a false impression. Only when we see all of him in the same light do we get a true representation of what he actually looks like. Cropping to remove the distortion and show just the part of him that is mostly of the same refracting light, makes for a much more pleasing picture.

I was ruminating on this natural light bending and how it affects my photography, when I began to think that we probably experience this phenomenon more than we realize, but in a way that we might not readily see.

In so many cultures, light represents understanding and knowledge. We even use the ‘light bulb’ to signify when someone has finally understood something we’ve been trying to explain.

But I think there are other things in life that ‘bend’ what we see and we might come away with a perception that is not accurate. We don’t recognize that we are seeing a distorted view of a situation or a person because, after all, we think we have the big picture… but often times, we don’t.

A story is told about a man who was riding a public transportation bus with his children. The children were wild and unruly and very disruptive, but the father just kept staring out the window oblivious to what his children were doing. The other passengers were rapidly getting annoyed and several muttered complaints about the father. One person had finally had enough and approached the man demanding that he do something to get his children under control. The man apologized profusely and said he had just come from identifying his wife’s body and was probably still in shock.

We need to make sure that we are seeing people and situations in light that is not bent by something we are not aware of that would distort and misrepresent the truth. The reality is, much of what we do know about those we interact with every day is only a small part of their lives. There are so many struggling in the waters of depression, heartache, illness, loss of income, and a number of other factors, that we are totally unaware of. Only when we see them in the same light that they are experiencing, do we begin to understand what they might be going through and can therefore have greater compassion. Its the old adage of walking a mile in their shoes.

I have recommitted myself to living the Golden Rule: to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Hopefully then, the light within me is not bent by anything other than Love.


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