"Look for the horizon and see what photos you can find". These were the instructions at the photography workshop. The horizon seemed so far away, a ship looking small through the standard lens on my camera. The pier was partly on the horizon but not very far away. Depending on the angle, sometimes the boat just merged with the pier and almost disappeared. And I found it difficult to ignore the foreground. It was there, always there. The sky was changing, as if a storm was brewing but not really getting up the momentum it needed. A storm hadn't been forecast that day.
Reflecting on the photos afterwards, I began to recognize the search for photographing the horizon as a metaphor for life. Composing a photograph requires you to decide what to include and, perhaps more importantly, what to exclude - just like life really. We do usually get some choices over what we can include or not in our lives. With photography you do get a second chance - you can do some editing later and crop out unwanted parts of your photograph. I guess in life we can always reflect on what is there and make changes for the future. While we can't delete the past we can do some cropping of our thoughts about the past, letting go of some of those most unhelpful thoughts and beliefs.
Looking for the horizon in photography could parallel looking forward to the future in real life, to setting goals and planning how we want to live our lives. The horizon can seem a long way away, just like some of our future goals. If I had a different lens I could have brought the horizon closer and similarly in life we can use different tools to refocus or break longer term goals down into smaller, closer, more achievable goals. Noticing that some of the details on the horizon, like the boat, merge with the main image, can reflect how things can sometimes get lost in our life. Some important things can merge into something else or disappear completely. Shifting our focus can help us re-discover them.
Seeing a storm brewing on the horizon can be a reminder of life's storms and the potential for us to strike problems along the way. The storm doesn't always eventuate of course, and while we can't always control it, being prepared for it can be helpful. Knowing it may not come can also help. In life we might even be able to have some influence over the situation - we simply need to notice it coming first.
In photography it can be difficult to get rid of the foreground from photos. This is often where we are standing, what is closest to us. Similarly, in life, we are attached to certain things, have some things that ground us or are simply there. We can't always get rid of these things, nor should we. They may be in the foreground for some very good reasons.
In photography we need a stable place to photograph from and equally in life it helps to have some stable ground from which to explore. We can choose to leave the foreground out of our photos, or crop it out later, but in life we often need to focus on those things that are most in the foreground of our daily life. Knowing they are there and learning to live with them can help us to accept them and work with us. Knowing that the foreground is likely to change over time can also help us to be both tolerant and excited by the present and future.
"Don't forget to look behind you. There's a horizon over there as well." Another useful piece of advice during the photography class and indeed there were great, but very different, photos that could be taken behind us. Buildings and cityscape rather than boats and seascape. Learning to look around us in life can be helpful too. Looking at something from a different perspective, looking at it through different eyes, with a different attitude can really help us, particularly when we feel stuck with a problem.
So, once again, life comes to the forefront of my thinking, even when focusing on photography. Exploring our life, what it means, where it's taking us, where we're taking it, can happen in many ways. Finding new ways to combine the various aspects of our life to help make sense of it as a whole is not just fun but a really handy tool to get the most out of it.