How We Choose A Lens To See The World Through

We each have our own unique perspective on the world, like a lens that brings into focus just a small scattering of light in front of us at any one time.

Otherwise, like a camera with the lens removed and the light saturating the film frame or digital sensor, everything becomes an incomprehensible super bright white blur, leaving us dazzled and overwhelmed, seeing so much of everything, that we end up absorbing nothing.

Furthermore, rather than just one lens, I think we choose various lenses to help us hone down the way we are able to see and digest the world even more.

One form of lens is a passion or hobby, for example photography, or cycling, or Harry Potter.

By dedicating specific time just to photography, cycling, or Harry Potter, we are by definition excluding everything else, the almost infinite other number of interests we could have.

What we’re saying no to and leaving on the doorstop, is as important as what we’re welcoming in with open arms and a smacker on the lips.

If you spend your free time each week tinkering with and riding your bike(s), you can’t spend that same time collecting pottery, dancing Argentine Tango, or water skiing. The simplification makes it easier to fit the big wide world into our comprehension.


Then, within these “lenses”, there are further categories we can narrow down to.

Perhaps for photography we choose digital compact mirrorless cameras rather than 35mm SLRs, or 4×5 large format cameras.

In cycling, we might favour a mountain bike, rather than a road racing bike, a electric hybrid or a vintage unicycle.

Or, if we love Harry Potter, maybe we decide to collect Lego minifigures, rather than costumes, or film props, or multiple book editions.

Personally, I’ve realised that whilst I love using a camera to make photographs, and riding a bike to both get me from one place to another and enjoy the fresh air, exercise and slower pace (compared with a motor vehicle) in getting there, a part of me also enjoys all the background research.

Partly this is practical – I’m thirsty for knowledge and information that will help me make better choices about the equipment that I’ll enjoy most.

But I also like learning about the surrounding facts and details too.

For example having a working understanding of the relationship between ISO, aperture and shutter speed, or being able to give a rough history of Asahi Pentax cameras from the 60s to the 90s.

Or how bike brakes work and how to adjust them, or perhaps a loose knowledge of Specialized’s three most famous models, the Hardrock, Rockhopper and Stumpjumper.

This I see as a genuine interest and curiosity in itself, and one that in these hyper-connected times, we be easily satisfy with anything from a few minutes to days on end reading and researching articles, outlets, guides and groups online. 

I think I need to acknowledge, accept, and indeed nurture this strong desire in me, without dismissing it purely as the foreplay inevitably ending an a new encounter with myself and a camera (or lens or anything photography related) or bike (or any bike part/accessory).

Or, to expand the analogy, enjoying more dinner dates, stimulating conversation, and kissing and cuddling, without it always ending up in the bedroom.

The latter I wish to have less of. Well, for the purposes of this analogy.

The surrounding exploration of the interest and hobby however, can provide plenty of stimulation and learning without the need to exchange currency for a shiny new (to me) object falling through my letter box two days later every time.

Having this knowledge not only gives us a way to fill our time and thoughts, but for me somehow gives a kind of security and comfort too. A pool of knowledge to retreat to and lose ourselves in.

How about you? Which “lenses” do you use to see and manage the vastness of the world through? How does it manifest, and how does it help you? 

Please share your thoughts below, we’d love to hear from you (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.

4 thoughts on “How We Choose A Lens To See The World Through”

  1. Dan, the photo is my all time favourite. You have a real gift with studying color in your photography as well as your passion for black and white. I use index cards to manage the overwhelming amount of things I want to do in my life and even have cards for meditation, time to rest!! The cards help me organise things in order and to see where I am at and where I am going. The time away from the cards I experience my life with all it’s joy and struggle xox susanJOY PS My daily photography is going really well. I am loving it again with the passion I had in the past

    1. Thanks re the photo Susan, glad you like it.

      I do like to be very organised too. Though it’s also about balance, having life organised enough so it’s not too chaotic and overwhelming, but enough variety and spontaneity to keep it stimulating.

  2. Hey Dan,
    I seem to have about 5 wide open lenses attached to my “camera” at any one time. Over time the bad lenses are sold off and the good ones get “stopped down”. I think that there are some people that just have an innate curiosity. That’s why I bet you’re an interesting guy to talk to at a party!
    Keep up the great work!

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