Feature Story

The Blink of an Eye

The Blink of an Eye

The average life expectancy for the year 2012 is 81 for females, 75 for males and rising as time goes on. Depending on your age when reflecting on this statistic, it can mean absolutely nothing; it can mean death is knocking at your door, or anything in between. Obviously the younger you are the more likely you are to feel that life will never end and that you are invincible, but as time passes and life takes its course, you truly see how fragile and unpredictable life can be.

When I took this picture in Royal Oak, MI one summer night, I set my camera on a long exposure and used a steady tripod to assist in avoiding the blur that comes with a shaking hand. I remember not wanting to miss the shot because I had no idea when the next train was coming, and I knew I would most likely only get one chance at it. As I was setting up my shot location and putting my camera on the right exposure settings, I could see the headlights of the train in the far distance.

At first, the lights on the train seemed so far away. I can distinctly remember looking and wondering if the train was still coming my way. The lights in the distance did not seem to be getting any closer and almost looked as if the train stopped. I would turn my head away, look back a short time later, and I could not make any noticeable difference in location. I began to wonder if the train had slowed to an incredibly slow pace. I had all the time in the world.

Time was on my side, and I had no other place to be during this evening so I just stood patiently waiting. As time passed, the headlights on the train seemed to be getting larger, and I was now sure this would not be an overnight stay on the train deck.

As the train approached, I could feel a little bit of the jitters hoping I would have the exposure and placement of the train correct in the frame. I noticed the train mysteriously seemed to pick up such great speed as it closed in on my location. It almost took me by surprise how fast it seemed to be going.

I quickly looked up at the train, back at my camera to assure the right framing, and back to the train again to hit the shutter of the camera. As the train roared by, I was able to capture several pictures before and after. The only picture that seemed to capture what I had created in my mind was one. The prior shots where all just a buildup of what was to come, and the shots after had captured a meaningless backdrop and a missing train.

As I worked on the post production of the train, I noticed what seemed to be a metaphor for life. A phrase I have heard often is that youth is wasted on the young. The passage of time makes that more clear. While I was waiting for the train, my impatience for it to approach gave the impression that it would never arrive. I even thought it had slowed to a stop. How often as a youth did it seem like you would never grow up, get the keys to the car, graduate high school, and get a job? The list goes on and on.

As the train approached and seemed to pick up speed, it was later clear that the train did not pick up speed, it was just my perspective had changed. Knowing the best part was coming, I would have liked to slow down the train to gather several perfect shots, but having no control over the train I could only work with what I was dealt and make the best of it.

Wouldn't we all like to take the best parts of our life and put on the brakes? Stop them in mid action. Stop them to enjoy them more, to reflect on how lucky we are, or just sit back and take it all in again. How quickly time slips through our fingers.

And in the "blink of an eye" it was all over. Gone, finished, complete. Life's journey when reflected on seems to have flown by. A teenager looking back on their grade school, a college student looking back at their high school years, a married couple looking at life before children, or a married couple looking back at life with toddlers when theirs' have grown up and gone away, all seems to have one thing in common. It all seems so long ago and to have passed so quickly.

Where are the brakes in life's journey? I wish I could slow down the sands of time. But maybe not. Where would all the joys of life come from if we could not compare the different stages of our life. If we couldn't look back on the great times of our lives that make the current bad times manageable. Or the bad times in our lives that have made us stronger, or who we are today.

Life is short. There is no doubt in that. I think that once you realize this, the better life can be. Take more time in your day to do things that are meaningful. Spend time with friends and family. Take the time to make real relationships. Don't be afraid to love, and to be loved. Take the time to explore your creative side, and don't be shy about it. If it is beautiful to you, than it's perfect. Don't let others hold you back.

All of this from a picture, my picture. My random thoughts...

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—The JPG team

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