Seeing in the Same Light

Photographing wildlife is always a bit challenging for me. They tend to move fast and in unexpected ways: those that happen to live in the water, even more so. I spent quite a bit of time with this river otter trying to create a good picture. Even so, I’m cropping out a large part.

Light is an essential facet of photography. I thought I had a fairly good understanding of how it works, but it wasn’t until I spent the day at our local aquarium taking pictures through glass and water, that I began to see something I hadn’t really noticed before. Many of my photographs that day looked distorted and odd. That fact sent me on a journey to find out why.

Here is the un-cropped picture:

A discovery of light

Because light moves slower in water, things will appear larger and of a different depth than it actually is. You can see that in this picture with his body. When you look at the entire picture, it almost looks like something is wrong with the otter. When he is either all the way under the water or all the way out of the water, he appears normal size. It is in seeing parts of him in different refracting light that gives a false impression. Only when we see all of him in the same light do we get a true representation of what he actually looks like. Cropping to remove the distortion and show just the part of him that is mostly of the same refracting light, makes for a more pleasing picture.

I was pondering on this natural light bending and how it affects my photography, when I began to think that we probably experience this phenomenon more than we realize. Yet not in a way that we might readily see.

In so many cultures, light represents understanding and knowledge. We even use the ‘light bulb’ to signify when someone has finally understood something we’ve been trying to explain.

But I think there are other things in life that ‘bend’ what we see and we might come away with a perception that is not accurate. We don’t recognize that we are seeing a distorted view of a situation or a person because, after all, we think we have the big picture… but often times, we don’t.

When we think we know…but we don’t

A story is told about a man who was riding a public transportation bus with his small children. The children were wild and unruly and very disruptive. The father just kept staring out the window oblivious to what his children were doing. The other passengers were rapidly getting annoyed and several muttered complaints about the father and his obvious lack of caring. One person had finally had enough and approached the man demanding that he do something to get his children under control. The man apologized profusely and said he was coming from the hospital where his wife had just died and was probably still in shock.

We need to make sure that we are seeing people and situations in light that is not bent by something we are not aware of. Something that would distort and misrepresent what we understand. The reality is, much of what we do know about those we interact with every day is only a small part of their lives. There are so many struggling in the waters of depression, heartache, illness, loss of income, and a number of other factors. Some are very private and have become masters at smiling through the stress. They hold in their hearts unspoken sorrows. Even if we have experienced what we think is the same thing, our individual reactions will differ. No two lives are the same. 

The Light that helps us 

Just like the picture of the otter, when we can see others in the same light that they are living, we gain a more accurate understanding. And understanding leads to greater compassion. It’s the old adage of walking a mile in their shoes. 

But how can we really know the true struggles of another? I’ve watch and listened and have tried to understand those around me: especially my family and closest friends. Yet, I have come to realize, that there is only One who truly knows our heart.

What can we do then? What is the answer?

Love. Plain…Simple… LOVE 

It is the only thing that will not bend or break or distort our view. The light that is always in the presence of love will illuminate our vision to help us see clearly. Only then will we see the great potential and worth of each person we come in contact with: each one a beloved son or daughter of God. 

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