On Paying Attention to What You See

August 8, 2011
How carefully do you notice what is happening around you?

A few years ago I started something I called Visual Viewpoints. This was a way to suggest that you could tell something about a person by the pictures they share, based on where they choose to stand to take the picture and the subject they select.

Don’t know what, exactly, my pictures say about me, but they offer you a glimpse into the kinds of things I am interested in capturing on film (well, on tiny digital memory cards anyway)

Interesting patterns of white on mountain is ItalyIn the case of the picture on the right, I was flying over the alps from Italy to Munich a few years ago. What puzzled me were the patches of white against the dark ground. It looks as though this is snow on a hiking trail, or perhaps on a ski run, but it is only the beginning of November.

Yet if it is snow, why would there be only white in these lines but not in the deep valleys Why are there breaks in the white, as though there is a deep hole filled with snow? But there wasn’t much snow on the mountains as a whole, so why did the “snow” create a pattern like this? There are other areas that are in the shadow more than these appear to be and I assume they would continue to have snow, so what makes these areas special?

I am puzzled by this and offer it here in the hope that someone who reads this page will explain it. My interest in it is a little like that of members of the Google Earth Community who examine Google Earth pictures to find anomalies that are interesting to them.

There are many who would look at this and only think of it as a beautiful mountain scene. If they noticed the white at all, they would ignore it or file it as an-unknown-thing-not-worth-pursuing. Yet doesn’t it puzzle you? Don’t you wonder what it means?

I share this to encourage you look with a bit more questioning eyes at the world around you, including pictures in print and TV. And then, when you see something that is a puzzle, that you try to find out what it is. There are a zillion things that I don’t know the why of, but whenever I take the time to see what they might be, when I ask questions about “why” they are the way they appear—even if I don’t find the answer—the mere fact that I’ve tried enriches my life.

If you know someone who might have an explanation for this picture, please let me know how I can get in touch with him or her.

What about you? How do you view the world? What is your viewpoint?

When you look around you, besides needing to watch where you are going as you navigate the world without running into something, are you interested in what you’re seeing?

When there is something you haven’t seen before, do you try to understand what it is, or do you let it become just one more thing that is a puzzle not pursued?

Finally, are you willing to pay attention this week to at least one thing that you haven’t known how it is made, why it looks the way the does, or its possible purpose—and then actually pursue the answer?

3 thoughts on “On Paying Attention to What You See

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