30 Seconds Unto Eternity

This is a blog that is unabashedly not about advertising, marketing, social media, clients or metrics. But hopefully it’s about something relevant to anyone living in the ever-increasingly busy, time-crunched, media-centric world we live in today.

I recently returned from my annual retreat to Wildacres in North Carolina—a week of learning and exercising an artistic skill. This year I chose to reinforce my photography skills. While part of my day job at the agency requires me to direct photoshoots and make selections and recommendations for shots, I rarely take the photos. I have the knowledge and understanding but I don’t actually do it. It was nice to reacquaint myself with “doing it.” Like many people, the photos I do take usually are more “snapshot” like in approach—taken with my phone—and are of my friends and family. Here was an opportunity to take photos with intention. To be someplace , look around and “find” the photo…the moment. I also don’t shoot a lot of nature photography, but here I had nothing but nature all around me.

Our instructor was Michael O’Neil—a photographer from the Charlotte area—who teaches, shoots corporate and fine art photography, and specializes in infrared panoramic works. Every day we ventured out to a different destination—a trout farm, a creek, a waterfall, a mountain top. Although we experimented with many techniques, I found myself gravitating to shooting time exposures—sometimes as long as 30 seconds in length. Something about it made me fall a little bit back in love with taking photos again. Maybe it was the fascination of seeing how time and motion came together into one image. Or maybe it was the methodical routine of looking, shooting, waiting 30 seconds (and then another 15-20 seconds for the photo to “process”) before seeing how it came out. Then, adjust exposure, reframe, and reshoot. It reminded me of the old days of photoshoots when we shot dozens of test polaroids just right before committing to shooting film. Oh, the magic of ticking off the minutes as we waited to peel the back off the polaroid to see what we had.

So, yeah, it was a little like going back in time and revisiting some of those now seemingly ancient things we—I—used to do, but realizing that they really aren’t that ancient after all. And they are probably still relevant today. But it also brought me back to the here and now. To look. To find something you might not have anticipated. To be patient. And to be in the moment(s). And to be happy with just that. And in the moment—there is an eternity.

I was reminded of a Rainer Maria Rilke passage from “Letters to a Young Poet”. “In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!”

Yes, patience is everything. And sometimes all it takes is 30 seconds to begin to find it.

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