“And, the no. 1 rule is, ‘Move your feet’,” she said to me at the end of our informal photography lesson.
We were, of course, rushed. We were always rushed. At the time, we were both working beyond full-time at the The Daily Advertiser. We were standing in the newsroom with at least 18 things to do before the day was done. Claudia Laws, photographer extraordinaire, knew I needed help.
“What do you mean move my feet?” I asked.
She glared at me. She didn’t have time for that. I had broken a cardinal Claudia rule by asking a stupid question.
“Move around. Don’t just take the picture from where you’re standing. MOVE YOUR FEET,” she said. “Look at everything from somewhere else — not just one different place, but from many different places. Move. Your. Feet.”
As was her way, Claudia took her responsibilities to help me take better pictures seriously. I was leaving for Thailand in a matter of days to complete a journalism fellowship from the International Center for Journalism. My task was to compare Thailand’s recovery from the tsunami to our recovery from Katrina and Rita. I had to take my own pictures, and Claudia wanted me to do the opportunity justice.
“You can’t report and take pictures at the same time. Dedicate at least two hours each morning and afternoon. Don’t take your notebook. Focus on taking pictures alone,” she said.
She gave me other tips involving horizons and the rule of thirds, but it was the Move your feet and Dedicate time lessons that really stuck.
Once in Thailand, I did my best to channel Claudia. During the first few days, I emailed a few photos to her. She sent feedback like, “This one would be good, but you cut off his feet.”
For that one, I had not moved my own feet enough. One step back would have offered a new and better perspective.
I started moving my feet more and began to see the rewards of listening to Claudia. Even I could tell my shots were looking better, and I was grateful.
While there are many ways to apply her photo lesson to improve life in general, adopting “Move your feet,” as a rule for living is a good thing.
It speaks to the wisdom of getting up and doing things — going places I might not have gone and looking at anything from more than one perspective. The philosophy goes beyond feet and affects the mind.
People often say, “Oh, wouldn’t it be great to fill-in-the-blank?”
They might fill in the blank with: go to Europe, drive across the country, go see James Taylor, take a dance class, do a writing retreat, try out for a play, cruise through Panama Canal, float down the Colorado River, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, etc.
My words to them are simple, “You are right, it would be. Move your feet. Do it. Chances are that it’s really not that complicated.”
The question to ask is: What is stopping you from doing the big and little things you’d like to do — even the things you dream of doing?
The answer is probably nothing more than the same old story you’ve been telling yourself or the fact that you’ve never done it before. Find a different perspective. Tell a new story. Move your feet.
Jan Risher’s column appears Sundays. Email her at email@example.com.