Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Focused on personal photography


      I am taking selfies morning, noon and night like a kid with a brand new toy.
      Holding up my cell phone at arm’s length — that’s the secret to better pictures — I shift it up and down to get the proper proportional background. I swish my short, curly hair signaling the subject is in a perfect frame. I greatly exaggerate my body pose, and smile like a star. No shame. Click. I have a new selfie to share instantly, or not.
     For those of you that need to know, here is the official Wikipedia definition: A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr. They are often casual, and are typically taken in a mirror. (I haven’t tried one.)
     Frankly, it is so odd that I am into posing for selfies.
Ooops. I got caught. 
     For no reason that I can explain, I’ve never liked my face recorded for posterity. As a kid I got scolded because I would put on a sad face or move my head just enough to annoy my photographer mother. I was in the front row in my elementary school pictures because I was one of the shorter children in the class. Still, I never looked too happy about it, and I put on my fake smile — or pursed my lips tightly together when I was hiding a gap in my front teeth.
    I can tell you fifty ways to avoid having your picture taken. I am an expert escape artist when the eye of a camera is aimed in my direction. Just ask my husband and he will shake his head at his most unwilling participant. He’s forever taking photos wherever we go, and I am dancing into the woodwork as fast as my feet will trot to get out of the screen.
     Maybe it’s a control thing, and taking my own pictures puts me in the driver’s seat.
     On the other hand, I enjoy documenting my adventures. I shoot hundreds, and a few I get right, and the majority, I don’t. I am not a studied photographer, and I admit that I am not willing to expend the required time learning about my camera. I do appreciate my acquaintances that are experts in the field.       
     I am horrified at the overall personal image issue perpetuated in the media, especially for young girls. Females are reminded that they can never be thin enough. To say the least, I am quite happy with teen preoccupation with selfies since feeling good about your body is healthy.
     A southern Illinois woman helped put herself in jail by posting a selfie, KFVS-TV reported. A little Internet narcissism lands her behind bars. She posed wearing very distinctive leopard prints that were allegedly stolen goods. The owner of the store spotted the outfit on social media.  Not so smart.    
    Folks work hard to get into shape for a physically challenging journey; others learn a new language so that they can travel in a new country. Me? I surprised myself, with a daily binge on selfies this summer.
     Fellow travelers kindly offered to take my picture daily near significant historical sites, and I refused. They finally gave up with me, though. I am not sure if they understood my lame excuses —. my hair is a mess, my makeup worn off or I look horrible in general — any reason to get them to quit.
     One afternoon when the temperature rose well beyond what was expected, I was at Stonehenge, England looking forward to working with challenging photo angles. There weren’t too many tour busses there, and the place was relatively clear for pictures. I started shooting while walking in a circular path for visitors around the hulking stones.
     I saw a girl taking a selfie, and then a second younger person, like it was the most normal thing in the world. They would laugh while they compared their pictures. That is so much healthier than being afraid of loving your own body as unique and special.
.     Why not, I thought?  I was a little self-conscious at first, and my attempts were not too good. Finally, I gave in, tilted my head slightly and smiled for my birdie, and there I saw a cool picture immediately. No one was looking at me. They were busy recording their own memories.
     I didn’t go to the extreme of scrapbooking my entire trip with selfies like another of my trip acquaintances. She would send them out to her grown kids each day. I used a blog designed especially for the trip with a combination of photos and words.

   Gentle reader, here’s a warning for you: when I write a column about how I am jumping in and photo bombing other people’s pictures, you will know that I have been exposed to the sun too long. Tell me it’s time to step into a darkroom – that’s a term you don’t hear nowadays — readjust my settings and get on with looking at life through a sharper lens.