I’m a visual person, not a “numbers” person. When driving I navigate by place markers: a particular sight, signs, buildings, natural objects; certain streets, any familiar object that allows me to get me there quickly. If none is available, it’s the old fashioned way – I screen every street sign once I get past a major street number until I finally arrive. This may seem obvious to most people but navigating by “object” gets me there quicker, with less stress and without turning around once I realize I just passed the location. With the screening method, it always takes me longer and I end up turning around a lot. Oddly enough, with a compass and a map in hand I can navigate in forests, mountainous terrain and other similar locales without too much difficulty.
Similarly, I “store” locations in my head when out and about whether I have a camera with me or not. I see something interesting, catalog the scene, file it away in my mental “to be photographed” box and then one day, something in nature occurs that recalls that particular scene…it could be a change in the weather, perhaps its the mist beginning to float above the field; a particular time of the year; freshly baled hay waiting for a particular sunrise and the right cloud conditions or any other number of factors. Often I know exactly when I should return for the shot and in those cases, it’s always weather related down to the season and time of the day. It’s an interesting dichotomy.
Unfortunately, not all such scenes or occasions are meant to photographed later. Those shots are immediate, have a lasting impact on me, and if I have no camera at the time or it’s simply not possible to stop for a brief moment, then they’re captured and stored in my memory forever. These are timeless moments, they don’t go away…the first such “snapshot in time” occurred in either late December 1960 or early January 1961; the latest was just yesterday.
In the first example, my father had very recently died of an illness while stationed in Verdun, France. We were returning to New Orleans on a Lockheed Constellation (aka “Connie” as commonly referred to then) and I was sitting by the window seat reading. All of a sudden, the light in the window changed and when I looked out, I saw this incredibly beautiful scene: The sun was perfectly balanced between two layers of heavy clouds; the sun’s rays were gleaming softly down that long silver wing; the spinning propeller tips illuminated by the sun in a continuous shiny blur; and the two cloud layers were bathed in glorious reddish, yellowish hues of color. I was in awe and that scene is painted in my mind forever.
The second was of a homeless man sitting on the curb at a major intersection. He was dark haired, tanned from long exposure to the sun, had a simple sign that said “Need gas, Hungry”. He was in his late 20’s or early 30’s and then he looked at me. His eyes were a stark blue and the expression on his face was one of resignation, devoid of hope, who had been this way for a long time and saw no future. I had no cash to give him at that moment and he will remain with me for years to come along with all the others I have seen in my travels over the years.