How Wide Is Your Lens?

We live in a world of images, some more profound than others. Much like the relationship between a photographer and their photograph, one image can trigger a combination of senses — sight, smell, sound, taste, or touch, all while imprinting a feeling deep in our mind’s eye, evoking emotion or action.

The image has a focal point, contextual background, and borders around it. Borders are important because they tell us what images to exclude. They tell us what images matter. The images outside the borders either minimally enhance or distract from the focal point. Neurologically, borders are a must. The brain is not designed to place equal weight on all information.

But what if we could stretch our borders, even just a little?

My wife and I recently traveled to the sunshine state of Florida to visit an ailing friend. We extended our time and drove to the most southern tip of the U.S., Key West.

As good tourists do, after walking, taking photos, eating, and standing in lines with our feet throbbing, we decided to take in a famous Key West sunset. All of Key West is only seven square-miles, so we thought, “How far could the walk to a beach really be?”

We stopped in a local shop to ask where the best location was to see the sunset. There were several people who overheard the question and offered their opinion. Everyone suggested a different location.

For me, it all became background noise as I started people watching. My wife, however, focused on each person giving advice, taking mental notes and preparing which lens to use for her pictures.

We left and I asked her which way we should head.

She paused, “I’m not sure. Argh! Let’s go back to the hotel.”

I inquired with the hotel concierge about a sunset excursion. We were too late to catch a boat to see the sunset from the best angle, but I asked if there was a close beach nearby with a sunset view. Appearing a little put out, he directed us to hang a left at the corner, then make a right on Southard Dr. and walk just a few blocks to White St., then make another right and we would see the beach.

The time was 4:00 p.m. and the sunset was slated for 5:37 p.m. My wife was focused, sometimes walking beside me, and at other times she took the lead. About 20 minutes into our walk, I started to notice the uneven sidewalks and how the trees weren’t trimmed enough to see through them.

Still excited to see the sunset, we were laughing with each other as we moved down the street. The walk was not as short as we thought.

My wife is a fast walker. Sometimes I would catch up and walk on one side or the other, whichever was closest to traffic or an obscure line of sight. I noticed people coming in and out of houses and cars around us. We finally reached White St. All right! According to the concierge, we should be there.

We weren’t there. We slogged down White St., but there was no beach. There was a pier extending 30 to 50 yards into the ocean. We got there just in time. I stayed at the entrance of the pier while she walked down the pier and took beautiful pictures of the sunset. Yes, mission accomplished!

Now, the walk back. In hindsight, I don’t know why we didn’t take an Uber. Google took us on a “short cut” and miserable is a better way to describe it. Our moods shifted to tired and a little hungry. Our quick walk had turned into more than 18,000 steps over eight plus miles.

When we got back to the hotel, my wife was a little off, and a little quiet. When she opened up, she said, “I feel sorry for you.” I asked her why.

“You couldn’t enjoy the sunset. I don’t even know if you saw it,” she replied. “It seemed like your attention was everywhere other than the sunset. It was beautiful. I’ve never seen the sun sit on the horizon like that.”

I took in her comment, “My purpose was to get you there safely. My job was to look ahead and behind for potential dangers and obstacles that would prevent you from seeing the sunset. My sunset was to make sure you could photograph and remember that beautiful moment.”

“I had my own sunset. I had my own lens,” I said.

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Entrepreneur and forward-thinking community advocate with 20+ years of experience in education and mental health services.

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Aaron Copeland

Aaron Copeland

Entrepreneur and forward-thinking community advocate with 20+ years of experience in education and mental health services.

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