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  • Writer's picturePaul Cotter

What If?

Abstract view of tree limbs against rock wall, with colors inverted

Whenever we face an obstacle, there’s a simple way to move forward – a way that helps us break through the confines of ordinary thought and arrive at unexpected solutions.

It can be summed up in two words: “What if … ?”

I remember my Dad telling me a story. It was about a fly that keeps buzzing hopelessly against the same spot on a window, trying to get outside. The fly doesn’t realize that the window is partially open – and if it just moved over a few inches, it would find a way out.

I’ve learned that when I ask “What if”, I can find the opening in the window.

When I was viewing this recent photo I’d taken of tree limbs climbing a rock wall, I felt lukewarm about it. It was a decent picture, but not anything I would use.

And so I asked: What if I cropped in tighter, making the image more abstract?

That made it much more interesting. Then I asked: What if I inverted the tones of the photo, creating a digital color negative?

Suddenly, the image came to life in a new way. Then I kept going and asked one more question: What if I rotated the image 180 degrees, untethering it even more from reality?

With this final change, I felt as if the fly had buzzed its way out of the window. Of course, I would never recommend using this treatment for every photo – but in this case, I believe it added something worthwhile.

“What if” is a very liberating phrase.

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