Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hawthorne and my happy snaps

The Hawthorne effect is said to be the change brought about in a situation under research as a result of the researcher's scrutiny and attention.

This year, I embarked (uninvited) on a 'pic of the day' project of the sort that Stephen Downes and a few others conducted last year. Each day I publish here (and in Facebook) a photo of something I have done or seen. As a result, I seem to go everywhere with my rather large camera hanging around my neck.

I find that my attention is heightened as I keep an eye out for that photo opportunity that will become today's pic of the day. I often see things I might otherwise not have noticed. I also find myself stopping on walks and drives to capture something on film. There are times when I pass something in my car and think, "Rats! That would have made a great shot for pic of the day, but I can't stop here/now."

Because it is now spring, I found myself taking many of my photos of flowers and such. I was rather pleased with some of the results. In 2006, I invited my sister to come and spend two weeks with me during the autumn as my birthday gift to her. Living in South Africa, she hasn't really experienced an autumn in rich colour. Most South African vegetation is evergreen. She was unable to come, so I sent autumn to her, in the form of a series of photos. I so enjoyed the project, that I decided to one for spring this year, in addition to my pic of the day.

Now, I find myself stopping every few minutes on my walk with the dog, or on my drives around the place. Each time I go out for coffee with a friend, I wind up taking pictures of some new vista. Not all of them make it into the 'spring' set, of course, but I find myself noticing things a lot more.

Yesterday, I mentioned on Twitter that I had been out taking pictures of spring flowers. One of my followers, 'peace82' mentioned that s/he enjoyed such pictures, so I posted a link to the set on Flickr. Having viewed them, 'peace82' asked me if I were a photographer. I was gobsmacked.

I am an utterly amateurish happy snapper. I have none of the skill that goes with creating a professional photograph. But then I looked again at one or two of the photos and thought that they were of decent quality. Not least, yesterday's photo of a mallard, for which I used a level of zoom that had previously resulted in vague blurs in my doltish hands. That photo emboldened me to take a few close-ups today (for example). I owe a debt of gratitude to Christian Payne, aka Documentally, for sharing this trick. I have begun to use the camera neck strap in much the same way, to excellent effect.

As I returned from my walk this morning, I reflected that, in spite of the fact that I am in constant pain, I am very light of heart these days. I am certain that this is due, in no small part, to the joy that comes from noticing the miracle of the awakening flora. I fancied some divine alarm clock sounding at a pitch unheard by human ears, but distinctly audible to animals and plants who set about frantically 'going forth and multiplying'.

While I have always had an appreciation for spring, my photo project has caused me to pay much closer attention to it, with the result that I have seen improvement in both my photographic skills and my outlook on life.

Thanks, Mr Hawthorne. Much obliged!

It also occurs to me that this is informal learning in action. I didn't set out to learn how to take better photographs. I didn't enroll on a course. I originally set out to capture a year in pictures, and somehow, along the way, I have embarked on a spin-off project and learned a few skills along the way.

Jay Cross should be proud of me!

1 comment:

rlubensky said...

I don't wear a whitecoat. I don't hide in a corner with a clipboard. I am fully engaged with the people I am studying. (I interviewed one in a pub on Tuesday). I hope I DO have an effect on them! Bring on Hawthorne!