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Behind the Lens This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

The lenspiece, the passageway from bland truth to a child’s imagination, fits perfectly over my right eye. My fingers seldom slip from the rough edges of the handgrip, and my favorite 18-200 mm lens rests comfortably on my wrist. The black Canon strap lies on my neck, an advised safety precaution. After lowering the shades for equal lighting, I bend down to her kindergarten height, twist the lens, adjust the focus, and release the shutter.
Now a passion, photography once intimidated me. Thousands of dollars in flash units, tripods, monopods, backdrops, lenses and a big black camera disparaged any hopes my pink digital camera, a fourteenth birthday surprise, would capture a half decent picture. Several years ago, a career in radiology and a love of physics gave my dad enough motivation to purchase his own big black camera. That big black camera sat on our dining room table as it awaited it’s presence at the next life cycle event, and each afternoon, it rudely stared at me while I balanced fractions and memorized vocabulary words. I looked up from studying and wondered why anyone had the patience to deal with such a fragile, complicated piece of equipment. The art of photography, I resolved, rested in the hands of those who tucked packs of cigarettes into the back pockets of their charcoal skinny jeans.
That principle escaped my mind on a frosty Saturday afternoon in January. Recovering from a morning swim practice on the couch, I sleepily watched a family friend’s three young daughters in pink tutus perform their dance class routine in my living room. Innocent, adorable, and very unskilled, the girls entertained us with their twirls and squeals.
“Take a picture!” My mom exclaimed as she handed me the infamous big black camera. As if a chip went off in their preschool brains, the little girls gathered together in a pose and waited for the sound of the shutter. I remembered to remove the lens cap and positioned the bulky piece up to my eye. Amused by the size of the contraption in my hand, my three-year-old models came up with a new game: take-a-picture-of-me-being-cwazy. For the next hour, I found myself in a photography whirlwind, snapping ceaseless pictures of their angelic silly faces, poorly attempted cartwheels, and hugs with sisters. The three little girls left me with a two hundred pictures on the memory card, but after they leave, the camera does not leave my grip. I view a different world from behind the eyepiece.
When my kindergartener’s patience vanishes, I bend down to her height and click through the raw shots from the past hour. Her gasps make me wonder why I once vehemently pushed this art away. She asks to hold camera, and I hesitantly teach her the proper way to grip a camera. I grip the camera with a hold I reserve for clasping prickly foliage on a Colorado cliff or rocking a sleeping newborn after photographing him. Her blue eyes light up, and I know. The grip feels right.





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