It seems to me that most quotations about photography apply metaphorically to life just as well as they do to images. I think that this little nugget from Ansel Adams really hits an important nail on the head.
I have found that every experience
is a form of exploration.
None of us has a blueprint for life. We like to think we do. We make plans, we talk a good tale, but the fact is that we are all making calculated guesses about what’s the right way to live; who are the right people to befriend; what are the values that really matter, etc..
Every experience, indeed life itself, is a form of exploration. We put our faith into our world view — whether it’s educated or ignorant, whether it’s considered or slipshod — and that’s how we go through life. We tinker our way through life. Some of us use guides — religion, philosophy, you-name-it — but the fact of the matter is that we are each plotting out our own course through life and doing the best we can.
The brilliance in Ansel Adams comment about experiences being forms of exploration is that it allows for mistakes, changes in direction, new motivations. In the same way that I might look through a camera viewfinder and mentally see/take a dozen different shots before I ever trip the shutter for the first time we are able to play around with the “life shots” we take, and if we don’t like the way one or several turn out there’s no reason we can’t change our angle, adjust our exposure, zoom in or out with our focus and take another go at life, at an experience, at an outcome. We aren’t bound by the restraints of having only one shot in our camera, as photographers were in the days of Adams when he carried a large format camera along with silver coated glass plates on which he made his images.
In those days a photographer might have spent minutes, or hours, considering their exposure, the framing, and waiting for just the right lighting conditions. Today we are apt to stop for a moment, pull out our iPhone, snap an un-thought-about image and forget it as soon as the image has been captured. Not so those photographers of old who took fewer pictures, toiled to develop them, and then laboriously tried print after print after print in search of exactly the image they saw in their mind at the moment they released the shutter.
Nowadays we aren’t so bound by our media — not in photography, not in life. The rules about how we should live, what’s permitted, what’s not allowed, how long we should work in the same job, how many children we can afford to raise, are new, are different, are flexible.
But the outcome remains the same: will we be humane, kind humans who care for their environment and others, or will we be selfish, greedy, inhumane animals who care only for themselves. And, of course, there are infinite variations between the two extremes.
For 6 years we “were” full time RV’ers. That’s something many people can only dream about, and will or can never realize. We were lucky. But that experience (for us) is over and we are exploring a new experience. I’m sure we’ll poke our metaphorical ‘noses’ in here, and there, we’ll sniff around and feel around and ask for advice all the while we are exploring. There may be impediments to our progress; after all at this time in life health can throw you for a loop at any given moment, or the stock market can have yet another hiccup and ruin a person’s finances, or a family emergency can erase all your best hopes and plans. But the point is it’s an exploration — when we find one canyon has no outlet we retrace our steps and try another — if we find the water is too deep to ford, or the current too strong to resist we get out of the water and find a more suitable spot to re-enter. It’s an exploration.
It’s a sad fact that in this world many people lose their lives while engaged in “explorations.” They pick a climb that’s beyond their ability; they drive too fast for conditions; they risk a fortune on an investment that fails and take their life in embarrassment — the reasons are legion. Perhaps they should say something to the rest of us. Were they being foolish? Or is it good to die doing what you love? The fact of the matter is, I don’t get to decide. I too am living my expereinces and I’m exploring just as they did and are doing.