Something I see more and more often around me is that information overload is distracting us so much that we just can’t appreciate what’s around us.
Take this example. The other day I was waiting at Paddington station in London for a train and had one hour to kill. I had a fair share of distractions all competing for my attention span; a newspaper (my cherished International Herald Tribune), two magazines that I got a few days earlier, my smartphone connecting me to all the distractions known to man, my laptop (for writing commissioned articles), my trusty pen and paper notepad to write ideas and more music that I can ever listen to in a month let alone that day. I do like to surround myself with a plethora of media to keep me informed and entertained. But this also seals me from the outside world.
So I packed all my stuff and just sat on a chair watching as the world revolved around me. I started to feel the atmosphere of this busy train station. There was an immediate contrast between people running or walking fast to catch their train and others who just hang around in a same spot for a long time until they are ready to go. There isn’t a sort of middle ground where people just stroll casually talking to someone as you could see in the street. In here it’s really all or nothing. There are no inbetweeners.
I decided to take my camera out and make a few hand held shots of the people around me. Not much really… just a couple so that I would remember this place. Of course I also wanted to capture the atmosphere that I felt and if I had my tripod I would have taken long exposure shots so as to show the contrast between the motionless waiters next to the blurred runners. It will be for the next time I go through this station.
I mention this experience because in photography it is often very important to get a sense of an area; to feel the atmosphere of a place before you start taking pictures. Your emotions towards a place will drive the creativity behind your shots so learning how to extract yourself from your self created distraction bubble and get an emotional connection to the world around you is vital.
Next time you have some time to kill be it during a trip or at home, don’t immediately reach out for the first thing to distract your mind. Just sit back and try to catch the atmosphere of the world going by.
Stop and observe.