For Granted

    I think this picture will tie in here somewhere….!

 A couple of nights ago the electricity in our neighborhood disappeared. Well, it didn’t really disappear, I think it simply took a few hours off in deference to the LARGER Source of power that was fusing the oxygen into ozone outside…or, possibly, the lightning had merely ‘borrowed’ the man-made electricity to bolster its’ already fierce determination.

I have always loved the phrase, “harnessing electricity”

but, that night,

     There was no harnessing the stallions that bolted across the sky and shook the foundations with the thundering of their hooves.

     I felt a desire, on this particular evening, to write something and, after diligently typing away for thirty minutes, I realized that nothing was appearing on the screen. ( DOH!)

     I gathered some of the candles that had been dispersed throughout the house and sat with pen and paper in the flickering ‘silent movie’ light.

     As I was gathering steam (and wool!) and allowing my thoughts to flow, they wandered across the many works of literature that had been originally written by the light of candles… or hurricane lamps, or even, in some cases firelight… through pre-technological necessity. In my case, the quality of the light, along with the sound of the pen nib scratching across the pulpwood pad, turned an inconvenience  into an unexpected sensory experience.

     (Therefore, this is likely to meander incessantly. Who knows, it may even lead me to something to do with photography!)

     I thought of the myriads of devices and schools of knowledge that I so often take ‘for granted’…the light switch, the computer, the telephone…the roof that covers and protects the bodies of myself and my family, and hovers over the mind that was being buffeted by the winds of thought as surely as the strength and resolve of the trees outside were moved and tested by the storm.

     I couldn’t help but reflect on the medical advances that have taken place over the course of the past 20, 50, 100 years as I reviewed the condition and prognosis of one of my ‘brothers’, a dear friend whom I had played in ‘bands’ with in my younger, more idealistic life. A friend who would not have survived in 1925. (We mused about the catch-all phrase that we had grown up with, “…died of old age..” as we marveled over the gigantic scientific leaps that have been made in the field of medicine.)

Another flash and gut-wrenching boom welded the words ‘band’ and ‘brother ’together.

     I had recently been awed by the stories and images of the HBO series, A Band of Brothers, and the experience of the horrific circumstances of war, along with the innate sense of Brotherhood that these men shared, and we all have the potential for, as they faced the ultimate example of ‘hell on earth’. The survivors of WWII are dwindling, but

Gentlemen, I humbly salute you!

     Most of us have no idea what you sacrificed, or what you saw, nor are we able to understand what you gave.

     And, I’m afraid, too often we ignorantly assume the freedoms that you fought for are actually free.

     I’m not certain I can even imagine helplessly watching friend after friend leave their breath, blood, dreams and hope in a muddy foxhole thousands of miles from the comforts of hearth and home, or being the first to discover the atrocities of the Nazi ‘Death Camps’. We have all seen pictures and probably read accounts of war, but they are so far removed from our present circumstances that they appear to our thinking as Hollywood ‘sets’.

     But we weren’t there to witness first-hand the absolute inhuman horror. It has always been said that World War II veterans rarely talked about their experiences. They were most likely protecting us, again, from the insanely harsh realities of war.

Which leads to the coming Holiday…..Independence Day.

     Again, we take for granted the brilliance and daring of the Founding Fathers who, through their growing intolerance with impersonal British domination and control of their economy, their lives and their futures, risked everything to organize around a new ideal based on the individual’s right to Liberty.

     The grand experiment could have easily been their downfall and death knell,  had not so many believed in it…had not been willing to die for it. (And we still have work to do to fulfill their dreams and intentions.)

     This particular holiday has become so much about fireworks and cook-outs that the true meaning…as with so many other holidays….has all but become lost, or camouflaged by the trappings.

     Wherever you are this 4th of July, try to picture ONE thing that you would be without had the Declaration of Independence simply stayed in the minds and hearts of the writers. It should be easy…there are THOUSANDS of things to choose from.

     Which NOW leads to photography….To photograph fireworks, a tripod is recommended….or the top of your car with the camera nestled snuggly on a bag of hamburger buns….anything to keep it steady. Fireworks are best with a long exposure. And, they are brighter than you think. If you have a camera with adjustable speed and aperture, experiment with f/8, 30th of a second, manual focus to infinity….a remote shutter release can come in handy to minimize camera ‘shake’. And do your best to capture early, because by the end, the fireworks are illuminating a LOT of smoke…I’m just saying!

     Try to get some building or landmarks in the shot to not only geographically place you, but also, the light from the fireworks sometimes gives a very unique ‘look’ to the building…..AND, it gives the ‘rockets red glare’ some scale with the surroundings . Don’t use the flash, it will only light the things that are in the immediate foreground…(It always amuses me to see the hundreds of flashes that go off in the stands at the first pitch, or kick-off, or concerts…. Most ‘on camera’ flashes only extend about 20 feet or so and when you illuminate the people, or whatever is in the foreground, it distracts from the subject, and the flash doesn’t reach the subject anyway.)

     While we’re on ‘the subject’…holidays…vacations… (where did this subject come from, anyway?)

     If you find yourself in one of the many large Aquariums…well, if you find yourself IN an aquarium, I can’t help you…so let’s say you are ..TOURING an aquarium….DON’T shoot the flash directly into the glass. You may see your smiling children, but the flash will bounce back and that gigantic sea turtle you waited so long for will be covered up by the reflection of you and your camera. Shoot at an angle to the glass so that the light gets through, but bounces away from you…like shooting pool…an aquarium IS a pool, so …like shooting BILLIARDS!!!….Unless, of course, that is the look that you are going for.

Ok, the lights are back on brightly….

Though I am dimming.

Have a safe, happy, fulfilling Independence Day…and don’t take it for granted!!!

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~ by rkpowers on July 1, 2010.

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