As a photographer, I sometimes use filters to modify images I shoot. These days it’s easy to add a filter after the shot’s been taken. I may soften the look of the subject, tweak with the light, add or enhance a particular color to give an effect or throw on a really fun starburst filter. Knowing how to use filters judiciously makes for a beautiful end result, but I usually prefer my photos #nofilterneeded. Just the right exposure, lighting, and composition.
When I first started snapping photos, cameras exposed film that had to be developed and printed. My first camera had no ability to change its focal point; there was a small square within which I placed a person’s head, letting me know I was five feet from my subject. Any closer and things were blurry. I also had to buy one-time use flash bulbs which were expensive for a ten-year-old, so I shot more pictures outside.
About a decade later in my early twenties, I finally got a single lens reflex (SLR) camera whose lenses came separately. Now I had the standard 50mm lens and picked up a 70-210mm telephoto for shooting humpback whales when life took a tack. I could shoot subjects inside and out, from near to far.
Although many of my early photos were of friends and family, I’ve always loved shooting nature. And quite honestly, most of it filter-free. But when I got more seriously into photography in the early 2000’s, my lenses always had an ultraviolet filter and sometimes a polarizer to cut out glare.
What’s funny about a polarizing filter is from the name you might think it increases the contrast between light and dark, but it does things like cut the surface glare of water so you can see down into the depths. And it lets colors and details of a scene shine through by blocking certain light rays.
Filters make pictures more beautiful. They can also make photographs more dramatic, a bit like our own filters work in life. They help us get along in peace and harmony. But they can also enhance the drama and create chaos, depending on which filter is being used.
Growing up, filters become installed within us as a function of being human. It’s part of the gig. They color the way we see the world and filter a lot of things out. They help us focus on what’s important while letting so much of our day function on autopilot: we only have so much available working memory.
Our filters are created with one purpose in mind: to keep us alive, because the experience of our life depends on it. Many spiritual teachers refer to this life as an illusion, and to Spirit it may be, but we as souls choose it. We very purposely plan to experience life as a human being. Some things we plan are more etched in stone, while others have wiggle room built in.
The first filter most of us install is the veil of forgetting. Forgetting we’re eternal beings. I know I forgot it so completely that I only knew myself as a regular human being and only knew this physical world up into my mid-forties. Sure, I’d heard of life everlasting and heaven, but I didn’t know them deep in my bones.
The next filters we install are ones that bind us to others. We’re a communal species. Around six or seven years old we install the filter that lets us know we’re mortal. And then we begin to create filters that help us operate as individuals and finally filters to help us know we’re unique individuals. The fascinating thing is with each and every filter they’re like a two-fer. A two in one deal. Each filter helps us, but can also hold us back.
If a filter is no longer useful, we develop tools and coping mechanisms and sometimes we find ways to remove them. Instead of needing to constantly use a dark, shaded filter to cut light, we eventually learn to shoot from a different angle or at a different time of day. Instead of adding a yellow-orange light in post-production, we discover the incredible beauty of shooting at sunrise and sunset, when the colors of light morph into golden hues, oranges, reds, pinks, and purples.
As I grew well beyond the noon hour and into my middle years, life conspired to wake me up spiritually. It popped me up above the clouds so instead of seeing only the rain falling, I suddenly knew there was bright light beyond. One of my filters began to dissolve.
Most people spend their entire life seeing and knowing only what their senses detect, and that can make for a very rich life, but something is changing. More and more people are being born with certain filters either not there, or quite thin. I think of these people as sensitives. People whose bodies take in a lot of information energetically, but who may struggle with processing it all coherently. This may leave a person feeling anxious and uncomfortable.
Often, by the time someone has reached a point in their life when they’ve met all their life goals and everything seems to be clicking along, they may begin to feel an inner sense of unease, like there’s something more to life that they’re missing out on. A mid-life crisis. Or not really a crisis but a sense of inner angst.
Or there’s something in life that no matter how hard you try just doesn’t work out. There’s this nagging thing that bugs us. I believe our soul decides to install some filters to block certain areas of our lives while creating conditions to help us find ways around them until we either make peace with them or find the filters and let them go.
I know that my soul made some big-time plans for healing and evolution. For growth. And several of the filters I created when I was very, very little: beliefs of less-than, have been unearthed and healed. Layer by layer they’re rising up from deep inside and being set free. Filters that affected how I saw myself and felt about myself, which in turn impacted how I saw the world and felt about the world, have been coming up for review and healing.
Our filters are purposeful and much needed until they aren’t. They give us our varied cultures and societies and give everyone a unique signature as a person. Filters create the human condition. They help us exist so we can have this very human experience filled with ups and downs, joy and sorrow, light and dark, and all colors of the rainbow.
Having healed so many of the things that held me back when I was younger, including debilitating shame and all sorts of blame, disempowerment, and self-judgment, I find myself walking a path with few and fewer filters, camera in tow.