An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

One of the best things about an oceanfront room at the beach is the chance to watch the sun crest the horizon every morning.

I’ve always liked sunrises, but unless you live in a place with an open view to the east, you can watch colors paint the sky, but rarely catch the bright globe making its appearance.

Not so at the beach, where clouds are the only thing standing between you and a chance to admire the source of heat and light — at just the right distance away — without which the earth would be a chunk of frigid rock.

Like most amateur photographers, I like trying to capture a decent picture of the sunrise occasionally, and one of these days maybe I’ll take a class and turn how to do it better. For now, however, I’m stymied by the paradoxical phenomenon that the higher the sun rises and the brighter the light becomes, the darker my pictures get.

I understand something of the mechanics: when the sun is still below the horizon, my camera is free to take in all the surrounding light and colors appear roughly as they should. Once the glittering flash of sunlight hits the digital receiver, though, the camera compensates by closing down the aperture — but to manage the sun’s brightness, everything else gets plunged back into darkness.

Thus, when I take a series of sunrise shots, especially if I’m using a zoom lens to try and catch a gull or pelican flying across the field of vision, the world is getting lighter, but my pictures are getting darker.

But only as long as I limit my perspective to that of the viewfinder. Once I look up from the camera, the world is bright and getting brighter.

I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere. When we box ourselves in to a narrow view and focus on one thing, whether it’s positive or negative, everything else can fade into shadow.

But if we back away for a look at the bigger picture, allowing ourselves to be receptive to all that surrounds us and not just the object of our focus, we may discover a level of light and hope that we’d failed to see before.

And that might just be a thought worth thinking in this new year.

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