Babies and Bath Water

Many years ago, when more and more corporations were putting PCs on people’s desks, opening up access to email, the internet, and (egads!) even instant messaging, multi-tasking became a hot topic in large corporations.

A group of managers in my then-organization were sent to a training class. The class proved to them that no one is more efficient multi-tasking than performing tasks in a single-threaded fashion. This has been demonstrated over and over again in many studies since.

Yet multitasking is only increasing. We wonder aloud how we got to a place where multitasking on a smartphone has now become part of our basic social interactions. Remember when it was considered the epitome of rudeness to have a cell phone in a restaurant?

For me, multi-tasking socialization started in the work place where I often carried on multiple instant message conversations, worked on an email response, and “listened” to a conference call all at the same time.

But the behavior has carried over to my personal life in rather frightening ways. A laptop, iPhone, or iPad is always handy and my face is often pointed at one of them–my attention hopping from messages, emails, posts and often forgetting completely why I picked up a “device” in the first place.

One of the things I have said I love about photography is that it is a form of meditation. I set aside my distracting devices and focus my attention as well as my lens. When I look through the viewfinder, even more distractions are removed, limiting the view of the world to just the portion I include in my frame. The mind quiets, the chatter stops, texts go unanswered. For those moments, there is only me observing something fascinating and working to capture it.

But how to carry this focused attention over to personal relationships?

I tried an accidental experiment this weekend. I put my phone on the sleep setting, meaning it would not notify me with events from the virtual world. Then, I spent some time with my spouse. Friday night, we even went to dinner without our phones. It was a scary moment, but we managed to entertain ourselves by talking to each other.

What was interesting was how awkward it felt to know we were going to have a conversation with no access to Google. No photos to look at. No funny posts on Facebook to share. Just us talking off the tops of our heads like the internet didn’t exist. But at the end of the evening, we felt like we’d actually spent time together vs spent time in the same room.

That said, I am not about to get rid of the technology in my life. But it begs the question: if technology has contributed to new detrimental behaviors negatively impacting my relationships, productivity, and enjoyment of life, how does one extract the baby from the bathwater? It is possible to use the power of technology only for good?


Getting Out

With my husband out of town for the week, I was left to my own devices.  I took the opportunity to get out and shoot a bit further from home than usual.

First there was a road trip to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, tucked in the Cherokee National Forest. To get there, I had to first see to the completion of the repair of our second car, which was in the shop after not having been driven for over a year.

I quickly realized how spoiled I am–my husband normally attends to car maintenance and repair. First I had to arrange with the shop for them to pick me up when the car was “done.” Then I had to take the car to another shop to get the battery replaced, which undid all the settings, including the computer that controls the idle speed, which resulted in the car revving the engine every time I stopped. I’m surprised no one attempted to race me off the starting line at traffic lights!

Then there was the little complication that the fan wasn’t running and I was advised not to go less than 35 mph to avoid overheating. I had visions of driving on sidewalks to avoid red lights. That took a second trip to the shop when the part arrived so I could drive to the mountains without having to take the sidewalks.

By the time I got out of the shop Saturday afternoon and drove to Joyce Kilmer, which turned out to be a 3 hour drive, I had only a half an hour to battle the mosquitos and grab a few shots before Tisen and I had to get back on the road to head home.

On Monday I pulled out my bicycle and stopped at Amnicola Marsh to discover what might have been a Great Egret. Of course, I did not have my camera with me, so back I went the next morning, when, of course, the bird did not appear.

Since the car’s idle speed didn’t reset over the weekend, I returned to the mechanic on Monday. Fortunately, they were able to greatly improve things.

Next I made the drive to the Blythe Ferry Osprey nest with a couple from the photography club who allowed me to drive, in spite of Tisen crowding the lucky passenger who got to sit in back with him. But on the way home, the coolant light came on and we discovered I was losing coolant. Fortunately, we made it home without a problem, but that put an end to my driving career (at least for a few days).

I stuck to my bicycle and made one more trip to Amnicola and Curtain Pole Road Marshes. No Great Egret, but I did meet another photographer and stayed far longer than I intended shooting at Curtain Pole–it’s amazing how much more you see when there are two of you looking.

All in all, I’d say I’m pretty good at entertaining myself.

Wild Ride

Having gotten a decent shot of a red-shouldered hawk at Audubon Acres yesterday, I have the itch to practice wildlife photography today.  I also have the itch to ride my bike.

I slather on several layers of 50 SPF and head off.  It’s about 2PM in the afternoon–not exactly prime time for either wildlife or light.

I cruise casually along the Tennessee Riverpark–the 94 degree heat dissipates as I coast down hills and suffocates me when I go uphill.  At least riding generates a breeze.

I continue on to the Amnicola Marsh.  I find a shady spot to set up and I wait.  This is where I start to question just how much desire I have to be a wildlife photographer.  It’s ridiculously hot for early May.  I feel the heat pounding at me the way I feel the beat of a bass drum at a high-powered rock concert.

Then, the bugs find me.  I am the incarnation of Pig Pen–I have my own cloud.

Sweaty, bitten, itchy, and aching from my heavy pack, I have a hard time being patient.  I have been in the field 5 minutes.

Then, low-and-behold, two green herons fly in and land in a dead tree.  The lighting is horrible, and I’ve arrived without my polarizer, but I do my best to get a decent shot.

I am too far away.  I decide I should try to get closer.  I carefully creep through the scratchy weeds, leaving my bike behind, but hoisting my pack back onto my sore shoulders.  I pick my way around thorns, through spiderwebs, and avoid poison ivy until I am all of 10 feet closer to the tree in question.

I consider moving further in, but the underbrush looks a little thick, I won’t be able to keep an eye on my bike from there, and, well, it looks like my feet might get wet.  I decide to shoot from where I am.

I see a flash of white in my peripheral vision and I swing the lens around to find a snowy egret landing among the lily pads.  Then, it disappears so completely that I believe I’ve imagined it.  The lily pads blow in the breeze and flash white glare back at me, fooling me into thinking there was never a snowy egret at all.

A belted kingfisher makes an appearance.  Although the light is pretty hopeless, I fire off a few shots anyway.  Then, the green heron starts to make his way from a low perch to a high one, catching my attention once more.

Eventually, I head on home. Tisen, having spent 2 whole hours at home alone, had foraged through my not-yet-unpacked suitcase and found the squeaky balls I brought back from Columbus.  I’m happy he entertained himself.  I’m even happier when I see my photos on the big screen and realize there really was a snowy egret!

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.