Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Focal Activities

Posted by Ben on October 23, 2009

I went walking with a friend this afternoon up to the Hahn Horticulture Gardens on campus to take some pictures as the sun went down.  I found this pretty specimen floating in the middle of a small little pond at the back of the gardens.  I had to underexpose the shot quite a deal to get the colors to turn out this nicely, but I’m very please with the results.  I got quite a few other good pictures this evening that will probably make their way onto the site in the near future.


We recently read an article in my Professionalism in Computing course about the “Philosophy of Human-Computer Interaction” (  The author of the essay discusses several different philosophical interpretations of modern technology in the first section, including one by Albert Borgmann.  Borgmann writes that “Postmodern technology uses the hyper-reality of simulations to get rid of the limitations imposed by reality.”  The author of the essay then paraphrases Borgmann and states that the “antidote for losing our personality to the shallowness and superficiality of hyper-reality is to return to focal activities … practices which center our attention on the richness of life.”  The essay goes on to discuss key elements in the design of interfaces between humans and computers.

However, more than any of the practical suggestions made later in the essay, this section on the nature of so-called “focal activities” stuck with me after reading it.  As a Computer Science major and someone who has grown up with computers around, I spend a great deal of time using and interacting with computers during any given day.  This passage made me kind of step back and think about just how much time I spend in the “hyper-reality of simulations” and what, if any focal activities I have.

What activities do I do that help me to focus on the richness of life?  The first thought that came to mind was dancing.  It’s something I look forward to (three days a week now), and an aspect of my life that hyper-reality doesn’t seem to intrude upon.  I guess I do try to encourage others to join me through more modern means of communication, but the focus is on getting them to come and share the experience rather than on the technology with which I send an invitation.  Maybe one of the things that draws me to it is this disconnection from the virtual world and the constant interaction with other people (in person as opposed to email or instant messaging).

Thinking about it a little more, I realized that photography has become one of those focal activities for me. I feel like my interest in photography has always (for the past two years) been a product of my desire to both better appreciate the world around me and to share some of that wonder with other people.  Over the past two years, I have definitely developed a much more acute sense of my surroundings.  Certain things like natural symmetry, or the way the light at sunset filters down through the leaves of a tree, things that I used to not even notice, now jump out at me and appear almost everywhere that I look.  Looking back, I realize that I have been seen many cool places, but haven’t truly experienced many of them, which only makes me want to go back again (especially some of the national parks out west).

I know that when I recently purchased my new camera, I did put a pretty heavy emphasis on its technological capabilities.  However, rather than just wanting the latest shiny toy, instead my focus was on getting a tool that would be able to help me to capture and share my experiences, one that offered enough in the way of functionality to give me control over a lot of the aspects of shooting.  I also know that I am using the hyper-reality of the online, virtual world to share my pictures, but I’ve tried to keep the focus here on the pictures.  You won’t find any flashy graphics or animations, simply pictures and text, there’s barely any HTML/CSS formatting at all on my part.  To me, the website is just another tool to use to share what I’ve seen and done with anyone who is interested.

The whole photography process has become a very meaningful thing to me.  The act of searching for that perfect shot, waiting for the light to be just right is both challenging and deeply rewarding.  Going back through the pictures taken gives me a chance to reflect and delve even deeper into the scene and find new or hidden meanings, even if they are only personal ones.



2 Responses to “Focal Activities”

  1. Bryce said


    I’m liking your longer posts. They are very enjoyable to read and insightful into your personality. I also like the 2 most recent photos a lot.

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