The discipline of noticing

Curious snail by Simon Gilberg (SimonGilberg)) on

Had I simply ignored the snail on my garden path on my arrival home one night, I would have missed this shot, and I may never have discovered that snails actually have very recognisable eyes, and apparently like lights.

As part of my Integrated Media course, I read through an extract from The discipline of noticing by John Mason. While somewhat mundane on the surface, it did touch on the importance of consciously registering things you see or hear, or sense in any way. We often overlook or ignore much of what we see. Mason points out some very important points regarding this topic, mainly that it’s very hard to consciously notice things. It’s something I have acquired (at least in some areas), but it wasn’t a quick process.

Over the last thee years, I have learnt a lot about video production in general, but especially cinematography. Having my own camera and shooting stills and video often has certainly been a major help, but nothing has beaten working with others on productions from community TV to short films. Watching and learning from people who know what they’re doing (a.k.a noticing what they do) is vital, but especially when it comes to photography and cinematography, the primary thing you must have is an acute awareness of light. Over the last few months, I’ve found myself regularly stopping and staring at a scene, or a ray of light, or water droplets on a spider web. I’ve looked at a room on a bright, sunny day and known instantly that the camera would not pick up that range. I noticed a reflected spot of sunlight on the kitchen table one afternoon, and genuinely registering the quality of the light, I had the idea to compose the image below.

An Improvised Apple by Simon Gilberg (SimonGilberg)) on

This concept is also applicable to my sketch tasks for Integrated Media. A few of my clips were very weak. I own a collapsible reflector. It’s round. So, naturally, I shot it literally unfolding into a larger round shape. Not very exciting, and something to avoid in future clips. That said, I was genuinely surprised with some of the things I noticed. For example, shooting through a drinking glass turns everything into a world of glowing, refracted impressionism. I decided on the idea as I walked past a drinking glass and realised it would fit around a lens. Even more surprising was the revelation of a lifetime; blocks of chocolate are divided into squares! It was as if I had never really noticed it before. I simply took it for granted – I never actually thought ‘this is a square’ until I broke off a piece of chocolate and found my next sketch staring me right in the face. I genuinely enjoyed that feeling.


Being able to notice things isn’t something you can necessarily force, but it pays to keep your eyes open.



2 thoughts on “The discipline of noticing

  1. Pingback: Discipline | Cattāri Brahmavihārā

  2. Pingback: Video HD: Smiley & Alex Velea – Dincolo de cuvinte [Official video HD] | MIHAI MARIAN - un blog cu de toate

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