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“Often, we assume that a familiar situation will be but a repeat performance of a similar situation we’ve experienced before. But, in the strictest sense, there are no repeat performances. Every situation is unique, and we must be alert to its uniqueness. The phrase “to pay attention” is telling. It reminds us that attention costs something.

Attention demands an active, energetic response to every situation, to the persons, places, and things that make up the situation. It is impossible to be truly attentive and passive at the same time. Don’t just look, see. Don’t just hear, listen. Train yourself to focus on details. The little things are not to be ignored, for it is just the little things that lead us to the big things.” — Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking by D.Q. McInerny

This quote sums up my entire approach to both photographing and teaching, espeically when it comes to familiar situations. For me that might be a landscape I visit often, or a workshop I’m teaching for the 10th or 50th time.

Unless I make sure I’m “paying attention” to the details, I fall into negative habits, like making premature jugements or assumtions. Both of these are counter productive and limit me from truly experiencing reality as it is, whether that’s a different way of photographing a landscape, or working with a student. Both deserve my complete attention and mental clarity.

Are you paying enough attention to the details? Are you merely looking or really seeing?

APC_1367-2Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park


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