Clouds and Water, Hoi An, Viet Nam

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To walk with a sense of receptivity is always the challenge, and the requirement, for the street or travel photographer. It becomes too easy to focus on getting to a specific spot or to look for a particular subject, or worst of all, to spend our time looking at our phones instead of the world around us. It becomes too easy to fall into habit. 

Walter Pater reminds us that “in a sense, it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations seem alike.” Commonly we’re told to approach the world with a “beginner’s mind,” a phrase that I believe has been taken from Sazuki’s book of the same name. 

While the phrase “beginner’s mind” is fine, I far prefer Rumy’s instruction to “wash yourself of yourself.” Eliminating habit and preconceptions is an act of shedding the old, including old perceptions. When we replace the old, our world appears new and alive. There’s none of the sameness that Pater warns of. 

This image was taken from a bridge that I cross several times daily. Occasionally I’ve tried to make an interesting photograph and usually fail. On this day, I noticed an oil slick atop the water. The oil reflected the bulbous clouds in their cauliflower-shaped perfection, creating a juxtaposition of high and low; of heaven and earth. 

The fish pictured in profile appears to have just broken water and is on its way to wherever it was going. I’ve noticed that here in Viet Nam animals, usually birds, often appear in my photographs without me seeing until later, as is the case with this fish. That’s just a bonus.