I’ve always loved photography. I can remember when I first started driving at the age of 16, I would just go for a drive simply just to find things to take pictures of. This was way before cell phones and Instagram, it’s always been part of who I am.
I remember stopping frequently on the side of many roads to take photos of things like fences, flowers, and interesting cloud formations.(Actually, you'll still catch me doing this!)
People often told me that I had the “eye” for photography.
I “notice” things that most people just drive right by.
I still tend to take photos from a slightly different perspective than most people. I zoom in on details that often go overlooked. I extend out wider for full range views that others might forget are there.
I think having “the eye” for photography has helped me as a person too.
In the camera, there is a concept that every good photographer understands. It’s what makes or breaks a photo. We call it “Depth of Field”. Depth of Field tells you how much of the photo is going to be in focus.
It’s up to you, as the photographer to determine how much of the photo is in focus. The camera needs to be told not only “what” to focus on, but also what settings to use so it will know “how much” to focus on.
Let’s look at some examples.
Take a look at this picture of the trees in my backyard. (At my last house)
When I took this photo, I knew that the subject of my photo was the trees, plural. I purposely focused on “the forest” and set the camera to allow much of it to be in focus.
I wanted to pay attention to and include the blue sky and the lines of the trunks. I liked being able to notice the “dead tree” that was different from the rest.
Now, let’s look at another photo.
This is a photo of a leaf on one of those very same trees.
Are the other trees still there? Is the sky still blue? Are the trunks still straight?
YES! All of those other things are still there, still present, but they are no longer the subject of the photo. Now the subject is clearly the leaf.
What if I told you that learning to practice appreciation and increase your capacity and joy was a lot like working a camera?
What if I told you that it was possible to refocus, and set your systems to only focus on certain parts of your life for a time.
Would your time of refocusing remove all the “forest” of the burdens, frustrations, fears and painful aspects of life?
No. They’d still be there.
But by focusing on “the leaf”, you can give your brain, and your nervous system, a break. A chance to rest from the chaos of trying to process all the information provided by the forest all at once.
When we practice appreciation, it’s a lot like turning that focus ring on the camera and zooming in on one particular detail, or memory that you like. By zooming in on just one thing, we aren’t overwhelmed or confused by “what to look at”. We know exactly what we’re looking at. This minimal “depth of field” view that comes with purposeful apprecation allows us to expereince joy’s favorite companion- QUIET!
When we zoom in, we are able to slow down and notice way more details about that one thing than we could from looking at the forest.
In the photo above, we see lines, textures, colors and how the light plays upon each segment of the leaf.
In an appreciation memory, we draw our attention to how the memory made us feel. We notice how we felt in our emotions and we begin to recall how it felt in our physical body. Becoming aware of how it felt to our body is one of the benefits of “setting the camera” for minimal depth of field.
Often times we don’t pay attention to our bodies. The information of what our body is feeling gets lost in the “forest” so to speak. But when we can slow down, zoom in, and “listen” to what our body is telling us, it enables everything within us to synchronize and “get it” in a more profound way than it originally did!
So, how about taking a few minutes to take your own eyes off the forest of your life and focus on just one leaf for a moment!
Think about what was happening in that “photo” in your mind.
Think about how you felt emotionally when that “photo” was snapped.
Ask yourself, “How did my body feel when I felt those emotions?
Now, take a deep breath and enjoy looking at your photo!
If you’re into “commenting” on posts or Facebook, leave a comment with a “name” for your photo!
PS- Some of us also spend way too much time zoomed in on NEGATIVE things in our life. This amplifies those feelings and makes it harder for us to notice that there are other things in the forest to look at! Be careful when your “depth of field” becomes so limited that it only sees the things that make you scared or sad or angry or ashamed. Reframe your photo. Take a step back, look at the forest, and then zoom in on something GOOD!