The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Through My Lens

Posted · 14 Comments

The camera. I knew it had to be mine. Surely my parents had noticed that I’d carried my father’s 35mm around all the summer before with great interest.

The typewriter.  It had to be for my brother. He was the smart one. He was the one who actually did his homework.  What would I do with a typewriter?

And so I wrapped them both back up with great care, making sure to put the clear tape exactly back where it had been.

And on Christmas morning, when mother handed out the gifts, I watched in pain as she gifted my brother the camera I’d grown to love…and plopped in front of me…a bulky electric typewriter.

I knew they loved him more…

It would be twenty years before I owned my own quality camera and I’d yearned for one ever since that Christmas morning, 1985.

Around the time I graduated from college with a writing degree (perhaps my parents knew something I didn’t) I bought a used Canon SLR for three times the price of our mortgage.  I studied it. I researched the art. I bought books on the subject.  And still, I know very little about photography.

I don’t have a clue how aperture works or which lens is for which application. I don’t understand lighting or what half the buttons on my camera are for. I don’t know what a single number on the camera nor the lens actually signifies.

But through trial and error…literally thousands of photos of nothing and everything…I’ve figured out some basics.  It only took six hundred pictures of the eclipse before I happened across a setting good enough to snap a decent photo.  Three years of fuzzy basketball shots has finally brought me some well earned knowledge and a few good action pictures.  Dozens of blurry bears, fuzzy eagles and unidentifiable kids sprinting across a gym floor…who may or may not be mine according to the pictures…forced me to learn how to capture the moment.

I had no choice.  Life was flying by even faster than my children…the risk of forgetting it all was too great.  And so I learned.

I can nearly always be found with my Canon backpack in tow.  A couple of years ago one of the kids strapped a stuffed moose to the pack and he’s been with me ever since.  On 40 mile hikes.  On dozens of kids field trips.  Down rivers, over mountains, through countries, across the ocean…my camera has traveled on my side. Rarely am I caught without it.  It is my companion…my eye into the world.  My memory and that of my future generations.

Through my lens…I can live forever.

And so yesterday when I walked away from the scenic view point overlooking Turnagain Arm, got in my truck and drove down the busy highway, leaving my favorite lens sitting on a rock overlooking the water…I was just sick.

I raced back as soon as I knew it was gone…hoping beyond hope that it would still sit, perched where I’d left it in plain view of the passing cars, as if to say, “Take Me!”

And it was gone.

I sulked and whined and Facebooked my loss, but to no avail and the lens is no doubt lost forever.  I’ll have to replace it.  But the cabin needs a roof. And windows.  And with Anthony’s health…and a possible trip to Seattle in the works…the money is just not there.

I’ll live.  Worst things happened to me, no doubt…even in the last week I’ve suffered greater tragedies than a simple lost material object.  It’s certainly not the end of the world.  For now I’ll just snap the kids sports with a lesser capable lens and get a few more blurry shots for my collection.  The full moon will be full again and no doubt the Aurora Borealis will show her painted face many more times throughout the years and so some time without my favorite lens will do me little harm.

Yesterday it was all put into perspective by a Facebook post to my wall from a friend who’d offered ten dollars towards the purchase of a new lens.   Because, she said, she appreciated all the photos I’ve shot of her granddaughter.  My heart soared at the generosity of this woman who, on her fixed income, was willing to give to the cause. So sweet.  And several more offers followed from well wishers who’ve enjoyed my photography and wished it to continue.  People who were willing to help…just because.

The overwhelming feeling of gratitude which I felt at those precious offered gifts cannot be expressed in the written word.   The idea that people out there…some who have never even met me in person…are willing to give me money…set into motion the idea of selling some photos in order to pay for the lens.  Because I just can’t accept money from people…certainly money not earned.  But the thought…why the mere fact they were willing to give, means more to me than any old camera lens.

And perhaps living the moment is even more important that photographing it.

Lesson learned.



14 Responses to "Through My Lens"
  1. John says:

    I do agree with your conclusion – I was at a gig recently where the lead singer insisted EVERYONE turn off their phones and cameras for the next song – the atmosphere really lifted a notch or two as everyone started engaging and experiencing more, rather than just watching.

    On the other hand, I’d love to contribute to a replacement lens.  I pay for a variety of publications that I enjoy reading; and I enjoy reading your blog and savoring your photos without paying for it so I’d see a contribution as a kind of voluntary subscription and of course; then, you’ve earned it! 😉

    • This is nice…I’m still working on a page to sell photos…I’ll gladly sell you one! 🙂

      • John says:

          Great, I’ll take the one that’s the backdrop to this blog for starters! 😀

        Edit: Before I posted this I just thought I’d check i didn’t miss anything and holy moly, you’ve got your prints up for sale! woohoo.  Great!

        I’ll leave what I wrote above and below because (a) I’d still like to buy the photo that’s the backdrop of this page and (b) you never know, the info below might be useful and I’d already typed it.

          A photographer friend of mine has started using Redbubble – looks like an easy way to get into selling photos. – they have a base price for each product and you mark it up to whatever you like.
        This page explained it best for met

        (and I’m not affiliated to them at all.)

        Good luck!

  2. Kelly M (MN) says:

    I’d love to mention that your parents knew – as many of us parents know their child’s talents – that your true gift is with words. The typewriter–even though it stuck with you as the “they don’t love me” present––was a foreshadow to the gift you bring your readers on a daily basis. Love your camera, but embrace your typewriter, friend. Your images are amazing, but your words are what changes us.

  3. Cait says:

    You should totally post the email attached to your PayPal account (assuming you have one).  That way, all those of us who want to can help out with the new lens!  I love PayPal for just this reason.  And everyone else has said just what I was thinking: we would love for a chance to give back just a little of what you give to us in your writing every day.

  4. Laurajoem says:

    Sometimes people are just awesome!

    • Katharyn Roberts says:

      Yes, please sell your photos! We’d all love to buy some! 

      Just a thought. When we allow people to give to us (a compliment, lunch, a hug, or some money) we allow them to feel good about themselves. In saying ‘thank you’, you are giving them a gift right back. 

      However, I get that your kids watch everything you do, and you want them to watch you work hard, and ‘earn’ it in a more normally accepted, more visual way. 

  5. Margy Teed says:

    Dang, Keri, you did it again!  You made my eyes all sweaty, and right about that time, the computer screen blurred up.  Jim Collins, you hit it right on the head!  Keri probably won’t give out the info, but I have decided to  compete for the title of the Town Blabbermouth, so I will.  I don’t want to put her personal information out there, but we are a very small town, and if you send it to Keri Riley, General Delivery, Ninilchik, AK, 99639, our wonderful mail people will be sure to get it to her. When I took mine in, I wrote that on the envelope, and asked if that would work. He said, “of course,” postmarked it, and put it in her box. 

  6. Nancy says:

    Okay before I even read further down I was thinking, I don’t have much but every little bit helps. And you have earned the help much more than you realize. I love your blog.. I can live that life you live through not only your words but your pictures. I was sick when you wrote that. I quietly borrowed (I did ask) that beautiful picture of the mountains. I have two monitors at work and I just would look at that picture and it calms me.. I love the rest of your pictures too because I get to see the beauty in a state that I doubt I’ll ever see. So you have earned it. And if there is a way I can help you get that lens I’d like to be able to do that.

  7. Kathleen Petty says:

    Those are some gorgeous pictures ya got there!!!

  8. Valerie Pienaar Landon says:

    Agree with Jim. But … if it would give you pleasure to sell your pictures, YES PLEASE!

  9. Jim Collins says:

    Keri…1st off, let me explain, the reasoning behind the “offer”.  You say, it is (quote)money not earned (unquote)
       This offer was made, because of the pictures you have taken, over the years….(you have earned)  This offer was made, for the stories you have told in your blogs…(you have earned)  This offer was made, because of the way you take in foster kids…(you have earned)  This offer was made, because everybody WANTS to show their love  to you….(you have earned and deserve)
    NOW, the only question I have, is where can I send my money?  I need an address, PO box, or bank account.

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