By Georgia Roulo
Since the age of twelve, whenever I snapped the shutter, I got a thrill. It was easy for me to fall in love with photography, and the joyful way it fed my spirit.
My earliest recollection of having a photography experience was when our family visited Yellowstone National Park. It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade. My younger brother, mom, dad, and I packed up our clothes, jumped into dad’s new Ford Fairlane 500 convertible, and set out on a 3 week road trip. Without a schedule, or an ultimate destination in mind, we left Chicago, headed a little north, and way out west to see the wonders of America. We visited Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, and Yellowstone National Park.
When we entered Yellowstone, there were signs posted everywhere that read “Do Not Feed the Bears” — and in some places the signs read “Do Not Get out of Your Car.” I remember being amazed by the fact that brown bears were roaming freely through the park, and that we might see them from the safety of our car.
While dad drives slowly, up and down the winding paths, and through the roads of this national park, I fill up with anticipation. On high alert, I hope and pray that we will be able to see a brown bear. The next thing I know, one steps out of the woods and sits behind the shoulder of the road about twenty feet away and looks right at me. “Stop, stop the car!” I yell to my father. “There’s a bear, I want to take a picture.”
My parents have a Brownie box camera with the viewfinder on the top of the box which means I have to hold the camera somewhere between my chest and waist to see what is in the viewfinder. Dad immediately pulls the car over and stops on the side of the road. He is on an incline. As he pulls the emergency break to secure our car on the hill, I grab the camera and push my thin body out of the open back window until the whole upper half of my body is hanging out of the car. Once I can balance and position myself, I drop the camera low enough to be able to see the bear in the viewfinder, and I snap the shutter, only to see the Bear jump up and lunge forward towards me.
With a scream of fear, I try to yank my upper body back into the car. Forgetting to duck first, I severely bang my head trying to get inside the car while dad is panicking. He is so nervous his legs are shaking, and he can hardly disengage the emergency break, work the clutch, shift gears, and get the car moving. Photographing this bear turned out to be one of the most adventurous moments in my young life. Later we learned that some people ignore the signs, and against the rules, they toss food out of their cars, hoping to lure the bears out into open areas where they can see and photograph them. This is probably the reason why the bear stood up and lunged towards me. It is likely he thought I went out of my way to hang out of the car with this black box in my hands to offer him something to eat.
Many years passed. I never thought much about taking photographs, probably because I did not have a camera of my own. Disposable cameras didn’t exist when I was a youngster. In my twenties, I took a few pictures here and there, mostly at birthday parties, and picnics, with a not-so-great, point and shoot camera. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s and 40’s, and owned a good camera that I became aware of the joys a camera could give me. And now there’s no end to the fun I have — enjoying my eyesight – and taking beautiful photographs whenever I want.
From the moment I pick up a camera, I feel excited, ageless, and filled with wonder. In the outdoors, like an explorer ripe with anticipation, I look, see, and sense on all levels until I become one with the moment, and everything in the viewfinder.
My SRL film camera is often in manual mode, while I am on automatic, and following my instincts. Photography lifts me into fresh, new realms of creativity. Before long, my mind shuts out external noises, and I hear nothing. I am only aware of what I see while my camera eye scans for sights that will captivate me.
Sometimes unforgettable photographs enter the viewfinder in slow motion. With my eye to the camera, I sometimes see the smallest detail expand into something so beautiful that I can hardly breathe. Other times, when I least expect it, a wash of stillness pours over me to hold me in place. I know it’s time to relax when my body is brought to a standstill. When this happens, I know there is something special in the vicinity. Standing in total stillness, my awareness level piques, and I slowly look around to see the details that surround me — until I discover exactly what it is — that the universe wants to show me. All this excitement is the beginning of finding an image to photograph. All of these sensory awakenings take place before I focus in, frame the subject, or create a composition.
For the cost of a roll of film, batteries for your digital, or the price of a disposable camera, you can have a day of fun, and dozens of opportunities to be blasted with bliss, astounded by beauty, and visually entertained. Photography is food for your eye-sight, and a luxury vacation for the mind. Pick up a camera, and join me sometime.
© 2009 Georgia Roulo Chicago, IL All Rights Reserved