We all go through life not noticing much of the world around us.  This makes sense.  We have a limited capacity to process incoming information, or, more simply, we attend to some things at the cost of not attending to other things, many other things.  I suspect that even this blue heron is not aware of much more than what is going on in the water around it.

Although it did seem to notice me.

We all know about this limitation, but it can be surprising how severe it can be.  Imagine that you are watching a video of six people who are tossing two basketballs to one another.  Three of the people have black shirts and three have white shirts.  The white shirts are passing a ball to other white shirts and to black shirts while the black shirts are doing the same.  In other words, everybody is throwing to everybody.  Two balls constantly in motion and six people wandering around also constantly in motion.  Your task is to count how many times the white shirts pass the balls.  This is a somewhat demanding task.  Let’s suppose that when you are finished with the task, you counted the correct number of throws by the white shirts.  That is, you were concentrating pretty closely to the task at hand.  Now, let’s suppose that in the middle of the action, a young woman in a gorilla suit comes in at the right, walks among the players (who are ignoring her), stops in the middle facing you and beats her chest.  She then walks off to the left.  What are the odds that you would have attended closely enough to the ball throwing task to get the right count AND see the gorilla?  It turns out in replication after replication of this experiment, conducted in many different countries, that the odds are about 50:50 that you would have noticed the gorilla.  You can try this yourself by going to this website.  And be sure to watch the second video (The Monkey Business Illusion) and see how well you do in that task.

Our attention is indeed limited so how likely is it you would have seen the dew on the leaf above if you were thinking about what’s for lunch and you weren’t looking down at the ground?  I am not going to admonish anyone for being inattentive – I do a very good job at that myself, just ask my wife.  I am saying that there is an amazingly surprising and beautiful world out there, just waiting to be seen and perhaps photographed and other things such as looking at big shiny bright things or attending to our own thoughts get in the way.

So what do we do if we want to see more of the world?  One approach is to simply stand still and look around.  Give yourself some time, you may not see anything interesting right away.  But give it some time.

I don’t know if this plant above is a weed or a flower.  This brings up another very important point.  As you are looking, don’t try to name or classify what you see.  Get out of the ‘gardener’s way of seeing’ (e.g. this is a flower, that is a weed, this is good, that is bad) and into a way of seeing without words and without judgement about what is good and what is bad..  Don’t look for flowers, you may miss an interesting weed.  Look for interesting shapes, textures, colors. There is no doubt this is difficult, it runs counter to what we do all the time.

These leaves have texture and in a labeling way of seeing may be classified as junk, something to be gotten rid of.  You can bet that a groundskeeper will be raking them up as well as the fallen blossoms below.  These blossoms were found this way, they weren’t arranged.  And very little was required in Photoshop to make them presentable.

It can be rewarding to go out and simply look.  If that doesn’t turn up much, you might look for geometric shapes – circles, squares, triangles, etc.

But the aim is to work at looking at something without naming or judging, to see it not as it’s name, description or value but just for what it is.  I can’t say that I can do that well, but I’m working at it.


100 Acres IMA part 2

Our camera club went to the 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art last night.  It was almost as much fun watching everyone else shoot as it was to take pictures myself.  Photographers are generally pretty careful about getting in one another’s way but it will happen from time to time.  No loss here, I kind of like it.

These two rings cast shadows exactly superimposed on one another on the ground at the summer equinox.  The rest of the year they are simply interesting to see.

There is a 35 acre lake as part of the 100 acres.  That is where I spent most of my time this trip.

This is called the I-Land, an experimental living space in the middle of the lake.  Two art students are living there this summer.  They, working with Andrea Zittel, the artist who designed it, will modify it in light of their needs.  It is made of fiberglass and is mounted on a small constructed island.

In the midst of exciting modern art we still find examples of art that has been with us how long?  Since before there were humans.

No herons for you today, would you take some nice Canada geese?

Becky and I went over to Fort Harrison State Park this morning.   I wanted to see how the trees were starting to come out across Lake Delaware.  I had taken a similar shot a couple of days ago and this time of year, things change pretty quickly.  That earlier shot was included in my last post.

The trees are starting to turn green and I was glad to be there to record it.  As I was setting up for this shot I was showing Becky where the heron was that I wrote about last time.  It had come in from the left and swept across right in front of me.  But because of the camera settings I had forgotten about, I blew the shot.  As I was talking she was nodding rather vigorously and when I was through she said a heron had just flown behind me.  This was April 2, not April 1.  She was telling the truth.    OK, I can be philosophical about these things but then Mother Nature rubbed it in.  She gave me Canada geese.

There was a nesting pair across Fall Creek and why not get a shot of them?

The nesting pair attracted others and we counted nine geese.  There were probably more.  They were everywhere.

The occasional Canada goose is nice but I’m holding out for the heron.  Next time I’ll be ready.  Unless she (or he) is readier.