There is a pulse to existence, you can hear it, you can see it…if you pay attention.
I was traversing the Long Beach surf when I stopped to alight on a jetty boulder.
I soon noticed a lady with an iPhone shooting photos of gulls launching from and landing onto the rocks near me. The ocean pulsated nearby crashing upon the sand, again and again. Sandpipers ran their own rhythm with tiny feet-beats in the rushing rills: all the way in, then all the way back, pecking the shallows as they did.
I noticed the lady nearby, smart phone raised. I couldn’t really see her face as she moved in toward the rocks, then back…clicking as she did. She shot, and shot again, moving a bit left, another click, then back, then to the right, shooting again and again click, click, click. Her moves were not unlike the sandpaper dances in the rushing surf. I said to her, “You must really like photography.” She said, “I love photography,” not even lifting her face from the phone.
I often see people taking photos on our shore, but when I see such a demonstration of focus, so to speak, it causes me to focus too…but with lens of eye and sensor of mind.
As she began to shoot once more I could barely make out her mumble into the smart phone. I wasn’t sure what I heard but she seemed to be annoyed by voices coming from up the beach.
I thought like any good mom she could discern through the din of crashing surf, bather banter and whispering wind her family’s voices up the beach a ways. Now, I didn’t know what she heard , whether it was “I’m hungry!”, “Can we go home now?” or “Dad says his tourniquet is loose again!” But she was so engrossed in her passion it all could wait.
And I’m familiar with the state of mind.
It’s photo passion: Composition. Try this angle, then that. Catch the takeoff, capture a wide-winged landing, white wave crashing on black rocks. The light is better here, more sky, good clouds, less jetty. Or maybe…from here.
While she was focusing I could focus on her. She was demonstrating her love for what she does and what so many people I know do. They ply the surf and the sands, cameras or iPhones in hand. I won’t name these others I know for fear of leaving some out. But they too are equally passionate. This lady was simply emblematic in representing them, what’s inside them all.
I told her I write a Long Beach blog and was about to offer her my card but she said, “You’re Lee, Leebythesea, right?” I said, “Yes, I am.” I was surprised…and flattered. I had one of my blog followers here before me. And only last week I met the other one! We chatted a bit before she went up the beach to her family, but she turned and snapped off a final shot as she did:
I met her again on Labor Day at the same jetty. Her name is Lisa and I learned she did in fact have her “kid” with her on our earlier meet, also her husband. But her “kid” is her 32 year-old daughter who had been calling out for Mom to hurry so she could get home to her husband.
The shore wasn’t sunny this most recent day. This day “hurricane” Hermine was offshore whipping waves and surfers into a frenzy.
Lisa said she comes from Woodmere to see the surf, a fifteen minute drive. She comes down to Long Beach because, “It’s my happy place.”
She said her mom has a very serious illness that so many of us have had in our lives…a stage four illness. Her mom is 87, she was married for 50 years, her husband died in 2000. I told Lisa “I wish your mom peace.” She responded, “You know what, the only peace that she’s going to find…is to be with my father. I have to be realistic. Reality is what reality is.” Yes, accepting reality, that’s important. I told Lisa that her mom had a pretty good run having lived almost a century and being married for half that long.
We spoke again of photography and how she favors her Olympus camera over her smart phone. I said, “Yes, but your smart phone is always available and no matter what quality camera you have, it does you no good if it’s back home on the piano.”
We all don’t carry our best gear every day, some I know do. But we all have our phones. Also, phone cameras are much less intrusive, especially for beach and street photography. People can feel overwhelmed, I think, even intimidated by a big lens poking at them.
Lisa said she finds serenity at the shore. I find so many people feel the same way, it’s a healing place. Lisa has pain, “back pain, neck pain…but when I come here…I don’t feel it,” she said. “It goes away.”
Yes, it goes away. Psychological distress as well as physical pain can at least ebb in the ocean’s flow. And often it just…goes away. I think Lisa’s happy place isn’t just a place, like the Long Beach shore…it’s a place of mind…a place of peace.
We watched the surfers racing down slopes into the northeast winds. We watched the sandpipers running with blurry legs. Lisa said, “I love those little sanderlings.” I said, “Sanderlings? I call them sandpipers.” She asked me the difference, but I didn’t know. I later found out sanderlings are a species of sandpipers, but you can tell the difference because the former are plumper and don’t have the rear toe of the latter. “How”, someone close to me wondered…” does the missing toe affect the blur?”
I saw Lisa focusing on a sandpiper near us. She said, “I love my little sanderlings.” She snapped away with her camera. I said the obvious, “You take a lot of photos.” She said, “Yes, and I get yelled at a lot for it.” She says she’s been told by family, “How many pictures can you take of the same thing?” And she said she answers, “Till I get that right one.” Lisa recently got the right one when it was chosen as News 12 Cover Photo of the Day, (top).
What are photographers really after? Some are after commercial success, no doubt. And that is very cool. Others would like recognition for their mastery of their craft, their art.
But some I think just try to capture a moment and share it. Share it with those they love, those they just know, and even with those they’ve never met, nor ever will. These passionate photographers seem to say, “This is my gift to you. This moment, this magic moment, I’ve boxed it up in this little frame for you to see…and maybe feel as I did.” This message might be not of mind but of soul. A reaching out from a place within us to a place within others. Maybe, the happy place…within all of us.
After a while I walked up to the boardwalk and my bike. I looked back and saw crash after crash of successive hurricane waves. And in front of them I saw Lisa shooting again and again, in painless time, amidst the beat of tiny sanderling feet…in her happy place.
See where I shed some light wherethesundontshine:https://wherethesundontshine.net