Did I sense some maturing ability in our son that evening? Actually, the reasons were a little more selfish than that: the sun was kissing the horizon, the clouds were beginning to radiate a golden glow, and he was starting to complain about getting cold. The truth was I just needed him out of my hair for a few minutes. I came up with the brilliant idea to offer him the use of our point and shoot to keep him occupied as I finished up the photographing last 15 minutes of good light. It seemed like a great idea at the moment, and it did work as he quickly became engrossed with finding compositions everywhere.
I spent the rest of the sunset taking quick turns looking through the viewfinder, glancing around to make sure my young photographer was not too far away, and worrying that the camera was already immersed in salt water. He ambled up and down the beach, pointed the camera this way and that, and took pictures of whatever he pleased. Best of all, he was careful and never dropped it. The light faded and we went back to the playground. I pushed him on the swings until it got completely dark.
I came home with a good image that evening (you can see it here) but when I downloaded the memory cards and saw what my preschooler had accomplished with no experience, I was blown away. I chose the safe route by picking the compositions I felt comfortable with, the compositions I knew worked. Worst of all, I stuck with them the entire evening. My son simply wandered wherever he felt, unencumbered by past experiences and simply didn't care whether any of the photos worked or not. Among the images on the screen was one that I especially loved, a photo of slightly blurred ripples in the water reflecting the sunset. A photo opportunity I completely missed.
My four year old son taught me a lesson that night. It is easy to get into a rut, relying on the same tools and techniques used to make yesterday's image. Yesterday's image may be awesome but eventually you will end up with a portfolio of images that all look the same. I used to think that was "my style" but more and more I'm attributing it to laziness. Thanks to my son, I've decided to act more like a preschooler from time to time. I promise not to throw temper tantrums but I will make it a point to wander more, to think less, to be more curious, and to stop worrying if every composition will work.
Am I going to let him use the camera again? Absolutely, I will! Not because I believe he has developed some newly found strong sense of responsibility. He will eventually drop that camera into the salt water. That is perfectly fine with me, I have my eye on a new Nikon I want to replace it with.