Shooting from the Heart

Let your heart be the shutter

Moxie Pond. The Forks, Maine. Photo Credit: Will Pennington

If I ever see Michelangelo’s David or Pietà sculptures in person, I will, without shame, bawl my eyes out. Artistic beauty, those works created by the human hand, exert such a pull on my heart and mind that I cannot stop the flood of emotion that overwhelms me. This extends to photography as well, and music, architecture, painting, writing, just about anything creative drawn from the imagination, subconscious, the heart.

I’m not an art critic, not even an artist, but merely an emotional human. My drawing resembles the stick figures I used to draw with my buddies during church services. I get more paint on me than I do on the door jambs when I paint the interior of my home. My guitar playing, thankfully, has less screech and more melody than it did two years ago when my wife presented me with my first guitar and told me to “stop whining” and learn to play.

Call me Lucky.

Although I was always the guy with the camera during my Navy career, I’ve used a camera for forty-four years and still cannot confidently choose the right aperture or shutter speed to capture what my heart yearns to capture. I’ve always been “too busy” to learn the process. I shoot from the hip instead.

My best photographs are those I concentrated on, prayed hard for and shot, fingers crossed, with the hope that the sun was not too bright, the scene not too dark, the focus not too far off. Pure luck.

My first camera was a Polaroid One-Stop: Point. Shoot. Whirrr click ta-daa! Ahhhh. Ewwww. Not every shot pleased me though they all bring back memories no matter how bad the set up. I’ve since graduated through 35mm SLRs, digital cameras, phone cameras, and now DSLRs. But I’m still a lucky photographer.

Fortunately, I see beauty not only when I look for it, but when I come upon it unexpectedly. I tend toward literal, for lack of a better word, photography. I photograph what my eyes see. A colorful leaf, a bird on a twig, the sky at sunset, the ocean’s waves. I rarely think beyond the rule of thirds when composing a photograph.

That is, until I began reading photography articles by photographers on

G.E. McKerrihan, Duvy McGirr, Rodrigo S-C, and others post the most beautifully composed photos. I’ve learned so much about the artistic side of photography through their Medium articles. Each photo tells a story rather than just capturing a scene. A quick snap is great for recording a memory of a place visited or a beautiful sunset, or a family at a reunion. But a thoughtfully composed and photographed subject tells a story, informs the viewer, melts the heart. These photographers know that and it shows so well in what they publish. They inspire me to shoot better photographs.

Pressing the shutter release captures an image in a specific place and time. Waiting to capture the scene until the heart says — now — ensures there will be a story behind the image. My eyes may like the scene, but my heart knows what my brain may not be seeing. I am learning to obey that inner voice. I am forever grateful to G.E. McKerrihan for introducing my heart to photography.

I’m a writer, and I like to tell stories.

My goal as a newly directed photographer — one who wants to tell stories through photos — is to hold my finger until my heart tells me — now, shoot from the heart.

3 thoughts on “Shooting from the Heart

  1. Will,

    Dave LaBelle said this image took him several weeks to capture. “I noticed the nest with eggs in early spring. I returned at least 4 times trying to get the right angle and distance without spooking mom. “Finally a rainy day had the right mood and mama was reluctant to leave her chicks, which allowed me a closer look and a tripod. Getting the right angle, with the best background, was the toughest part. “300 f4 D800 – slow shutter on a tripod, cold rain.”

    The cold rain is evident in the print. (My photographic attempt blurs the nest.) Two of Dave’s very accessible (even to a novice) surround our old typewriter.

    I “met” Dave through an online writer’s workshop during the pandemic. He was a presenter. I wasn’t interested in the photography part but appreciated his approach. I was interested in his book Bridges & Angels: The Story of Ruth, about the epic flood the family went through when Dave was 17. He in turn read my Leora’s Letters. Both books have horrendous family losses, which connected us. I hate talking on the phone, but we talked for an hour. Maybe two years ago. Since then, I got a couple of his photography books. They are perfect for a non-photo person, for the compelling writing and his thoughts on how and why and why nots.

    Last summer, he and his wife moved from Ohio to eastern Iowa and somehow we reconnected, right before I was to give a talk in Guthrie Center–about an hour away for me, but maybe 3 1/2 for him. He showed up! I just regret that we didn’t have time to talk much there.

    I’ll be interested to follow what you take photos of, and especially what you write about them!


    Liked by 1 person

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