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May 10, 2010

Zone of Focus

I signed up for my second photography class at the local community college today. I'm a little nervous about having weekly assignments and not crazy about spending three hours of an all-too-short weeknight in class, but I'm excited to learn more. Five weeks into my intro class, I already understand my camera better and have dared to move out of the automatic setting and into aperture priority.

My husband enjoys photography, too, so I've been filling him in on each week's lessons. The other day when we were discussing depth of field (the zone of sharp focus), he made an interesting comparison between photography and writing fiction.  Like a photographer deciding how much of an image should come sharply into focus and what elements can be blurred, a writer decides to zero in on one character or part of a scene or to focus broadly and make almost every detail sharp.  Both methods can produce beautiful results.

I often write key scenes--especially those that are emotionally difficult--as if I'm photographing them through a zoom lens.  At first the image is broad and blurry in places; the scene feels out of reach.  Little by little I add in more details, often re-writing the scene from scratch and discovering new elements in the process.  One time through I'll focus on sensory details; another time, on character interactions and dialogue; another, on the character's inner feelings.  With each pass, I come closer to feelings and actions more comfortably viewed from a distance.

That's how I deal with the tough scenes.  What methods do you use to get through them?

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