Expect Nothing, Get an Owl
It has been a long and gradual journey for me from casual to serious photographer. I first picked up a SLR back in community college, when I was being instructed how to shoot slides of my artwork. At the time (and for most things today) tools involving numbers or precision did not appeal to me in the least. For some reason, this tool with its focus ring, light meters and shutter speeds, really spoke to me and it wasn’t long until I spent a hefty chunk of my student-job paycheck on the cheapest 35mm SLR I could find. At first, I went fully automatic on all the settings, but I eventually came to a point where I could work fully manual. Back then, success to me meant creating photographs that were in focus and exposed well. My compositions were just so-s0, and none of my images were of a quality I would consider very artistic. That was frustrating. I was a decent artist that could draw and paint well. I understood perspective, lighting, color, tonality and line, but all my images just looked like snapshots…and I wanted them to look like Ansel Adams. Turns out, composition is HUGE in photography, and it would take me many more years of study for that to really sink in. With painting, if something doesn’t work, you can change it. In photography, you work with what you get! What a challenge. I had to learn P A T I E N C E.
Dang it! Patience. Waiting. Slowing down. Acceptance vs. anxiety. Going with the flow. All that stuff you see in the inexhaustible stream of Memes on social media today. Patience; the word that all of my instructors at one time directed towards my stubborn ears until the one day I finally embraced another concept and patience finally penetrated my young thick skull. I became humble. I realized I could actually get help from people and it was okay. I became a better student and my art and photography began to improve.
Twenty years later and I am still learning the rewards of patience. Learning that some days are going to yield amazing photographs, while others might only provide a single cup of good coffee, is an ongoing lesson for me.
Last week, I was in one of my favorite parks I use to prime my creative juices. I wasn’t really expecting much, but I was hopeful. There are a lot of places to shoot water, but the sun was already high and I wasn’t going to be able to take very long exposures. I decided I would just shoot trees and plants. Since it is a heavily wooded area, I could catch splashes of light hitting random sections of limbs and trunks of the cedar and firs. I wasn’t getting anything spectacular, but I was in acceptance of my situation and allowed myself to enjoy the smells of the park and the coolness of the air coming of the stream. After gathering up my gear, I headed towards a walk bridge and spotted something sitting on a tree limb. Almost immediately after I spotted it, a patch of light hit the object and I saw that it was a Barred Owl!
After a minute or so of admiring this beautiful bird, I suddenly thought, “camera!” I desperately dug out my camera from my bag and fitted my longer zoom and began shooting. To get it’s attention, I began making “hoot” sounds and knocking on the hand- rail of the bridge. It would slowly rotate its head long enough for me to get a few shots before returning back to whatever it was gazing on before. To push my luck, I decided to slowly walk around the owl on a trail that would get me another angle. After snapping some photos from the new angle, I looked over in the direction it was gazing and noticed a mother duck and its ducklings. Bonus! I was too far away to get a tight shot of the duck, but the lighting and the greenery in the foreground made for a nice composition.
It was a great nature photography day for sure. In the past, I would of looked at the harsh lighting and not pursued picture taking on a day like that. Experience has taught me that you can make just about any lighting situation work, and with enough patience and the right mind set, even your worst photo outings will be rewarding.
Thanks for stopping by! If there is a photography topic you would like to read, whether it be technical or artistic, let me know. I am happy to share all I know-Shawn Pagels