I’ve seen her walk by my beach lately. Probably a neighbor. Not many Lake Michigan regulars after Labor Day. She looks like Barbie would look, thirty-five years later, with a little extra ballast to counterweight her formidable bowsprit. I don’t know if you believe me or not, but I’m not a dirty old man. I wasn’t leering. Besides there’s a freshening breeze and she’s fully dressed. But somehow, she must have realized I was watching and smiled at me—a safe old fart.
She squats in the gravel windrow along the shoreline to grab a shot of the roiling surf. Probably using her cell phone to show all her ‘best friends forever.’ I shake my head. Why do I dismiss her, not take her seriously? Could it be her resemblance to the iconic doll? Her multiple toe rings, nails painted with little American flags…when’s Memorial Day again?
Stop it, I tell myself. What makes me so special? Me, who could be her father, and she who could have my grandkids? Am I that prejudiced, that simple-minded in my evaluation of people? What does she have to do, use five syllable words to impress me? Show me her diploma?
I ease out of my beach chair to join her—not many younger women smile at me anymore. As I get closer I can see that she is using a DSLR with a zoom lens. Huh. I stand behind her a moment before remarking, “Shoot much?”
“Oh, yeah, all the time.”
She can say that again. In the space of those two sentences she must have taken ten shots. Digital cameras! You can just shoot and shoot and shoot, but you still have to edit sometime, go through every shot and cull the best. Might as well do it beforehand. God, I sound like some old duffer… ‘why back in my day…’”
“Look,” she says, offering her ten-minute shoot in the playback/viewfinder. I have to admit I’m impressed. It’s a kind of rolling contact sheet.
“Very nice,” I say. “You’ve got a good eye. Although a couple of these could be framed a little better.”
“Do you shoot?”
“Yeah, I used to. I was a hospital photographer before everything was digital and you had to wait two days to see what you got.”
“Oh, man, I sure could use some coaching.”
“You don’t need much. You’ve got some great shots there.”
“But what did you mean about ‘framing’?”
“Oh, you know, the old law of thirds.”
“Ah, from art history classes,” she says. “Composition. I never thought to apply it to photography. Show me which shots you meant.”
Soon we are sitting on a driftwood log and I’m drawing diagrams in the sand and taking pictures to illustrate concepts. There were times in my youth when discussing exposure with an attractive woman would’ve taken a different slant. But at my age, this is as good as it’s going to get. And I was even invited to be her friend on Facebook…whatever that implies.