The other day I stole a few hours for myself and returned to the Plaza de España with my journal and camera in tow. I’ve noticed that the Spanish walk much more slowly than Americans, so I tried to blend in and do the same. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. I guess I just never stop to think about how fast-paced my lifestyle is, always piling on challenging classes, juggling extra-curriculars and jobs, scheduling every minute of my day. That way of life gives me energy and a sense of accomplishment. It’s a lifestyle that I choose again and again each semester, even though I know that I’m setting myself up for sleep deprivation, little free time, and the potential to burn out for a bit. Even after this past fall, my most stressful semester thus far in college, I found myself craving schoolwork before my classes started at UPO. And no, I’m not crazy. Well, maybe a little.
But it’s also healthy to slow down and relax. So, for a blissful afternoon, that is precisely what I did. One of the things I love yet never seem to make time for is photography. Since I know I’ll be back at the Plaza de España a million times and I don’t want to take the same photos over and over, I decided to dedicate this particular afternoon to black and white photography. I rarely photograph in black and white, but I think it’s beautiful. With black and white, you can’t just say, “Isn’t that a pretty scene?” and snap a photo. Black and white requires you to observe light and shadows on a much deeper level, which is something I could use some practice with. I also decided to get really artsy and play with manual (versus automatic) focus, which I pretty much never do. Now I’m glad that I learned how to use it, because for some reason my auto focus is being picky about when it wants to work, and it’s not so convenient to find that out in the middle of the Catedral de Sevilla.
After playing with my camera a bit, I settled down on a bench decorated with a tile map of Spain. With the sun out, the weather was gorgeous, and to my amusement many Spaniards were actually tanning in January. I, on the other hand, spent some time catching up on my travel journal and listening to music. Writing and James Taylor, what more do you need in life? This is the most consistent journaling that I have ever done, and I’m kind of stoked about it. If only I could form that habit for my personal journal and not just for my travel one.
I also got really excited because someone asked if I was from the Sevilla area (until I spoke more and explained I was American), another guy said I looked German, and when I offered to take a photo for a French couple, en français, they totally understood me. I by no means want to abandon my American heritage, but it was cool that I could blend in with the Europeans as well.
After writing for a while, I went to the second level of the plaza and took some more photos. Photography is an addiction—I kept telling myself just one more photo as I tried to force myself home before the sun set. The beauty of black and white photography is that it allows you to look at a whole spectrum of greys in between the black and the white, just as life has its grey areas. La vida no es negra y blanca. Life is not black and white. Nothing is absolute, and extremes are dangerous. It’s all about striking a balance, whether it’s with time, politics, religion, cultural practices, or any other aspect of life.