Do-Over

Day 21, 500 words, 31 days.

The days here are getting longer. My body is telling me it’s 3 in the morning, but somehow my mind won’t shut down. It’s probably best I turn in soon, and but I won’t, without looking back at my day and where it all went.

For most of the day, I sat in the same spot and “tweeted” and Facebook-posted and practiced all the theoretical principles I preached earlier on in the week about using social media. It doesn’t really feel like work when I do the aforementioned things only when I feel compelled to do so. But when I’m doing it non-stop for an entire day, then I remember that it’s actually my job, and I better do it well.

My credibility depends on it. As does my team.

We started earlier than the day before, and we finished much later. The sun had officially set by the time the last of our workshop participants trickled out of the conference room with us. It was about dinner time, and we didn’t try very hard to think up a different place to go this evening, so we re-traced our steps back to the Forum mall we had gone to the night before.

This time around, though, I brought my camera with me – the Canon D20 DSLR my wife had inherited from her brother, which I then inherited from her. It’s a bulky camera with a broken flash and a screen comparable to the size of that which you find on a “dumbphone”. But, it’s the camera that I use anyway, and it is well-loved.

I decided to test out taking panning shots by the side of the road. Surprisingly, the side that we were on hardly had any cars on it, so I felt safe being on the street. I had to ask my pro photo-buddies to assist me with the technical details – as I had already forgotten how to shoot these shots. We actually had a new friend join us in the evening, a world photographer, as he would describe himself, and he was testing out the Fuji camera Matt had leant him.

So there we were, the four of us taking panning shots on the side of the street over and over, with locals passing by, staring at our odd collection of tall foreigners (minus myself, that is), shooting slow-moving “Ambassador” cabs and taking up too much space.

At one point, I started feeling that we were probably a bit of spectacle ourselves and so I wanted to move on a bit further from the rest of the group and conspicuously shoot my shots, the way I always do, hardly making the effort to talk to strangers and ask for permission to take pictures of people. But my friends’ boldness to do so was encouraging, and challenging, and compelled me, at least, to try.

There was the girl selling grilled corn whom I didn’t manage to take a picture of, and the guys at the shop making some kind of sweet, local delicacy whom I did, though, accidentally – I was actually trying to take a picture of their fryers, but one of the men noticed what I was up to and raised his arms wide, totally photo-bombing my photo, and in turn, saving it from being utterly banal and completely lifeless.

It ended up being a blurry picture but I liked it the most. It made me laugh.

I’m learning to enjoy photography again, and perhaps it’s because I’ve stopped putting pressure on myself to be great at it. I’m perfectly ok with being good enough, which isn’t something I can say for most things I pursue. It might have to do with the fact that I’m around guys far more experienced about the craft than I am, that I figured, instead, to approach photography as though I was learning it all over again, rather than having to show how much of it I already knew.

And it’s absolutely more freeing for me this way. I’m not obsessing over taking the perfect photo. I’m delighting in the process of finding a good one worth taking. I’m curious to see if I’ll stumble upon an unexpected story, freezing all these moments in time to see what I captured, even if, it turns out I actually missed everything.

Really, the more meaningful thing for me, is that I’ve remembered to stay curious. That I’m ready and willing just to learn it all, all over again.

That, in this particular way, I have nothing more to prove.

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