The best shot I never got…

or why you should take these few extra steps before heading out for the day.

blue heron in flight
“a blue heron in flight…with reflection and shadow”

 

If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.

Lewis Hine

There are some images that will be forever burned into my memory and at the top of that list is one particular bald eagle shot.

I always tell people to carry their camera with them at all times because the one time that you don’t, will be the time that you will wish that you had. Of course this was back when I thought that just having my camera with me would be enough!

The bald eagle in addition to being our national bird is the only eagle unique to North America. They weigh between 10 to 14 pounds and have a wing span of 6 to 7 feet which can only be fully appreciated when one is at eye level with one such bird…and that is exactly what happened one summer morning as I was driving down the road only moments from home in the Idaho countryside.

At least one camera and an assortment of lenses are always with me in my daily travels and I truly do feel quite naked without them. They reside in a large ‘handbag’ of sorts that doesn’t scream ‘I’m a camera bag!’ The day after the best shot I never got, I started a new ritual so that maybe another time this image would be in a printable format instead of just indelibly lodged in my brain. My camera now sits on the seat beside me, the lens cap is off, and I have set it manually. I’ve taken a test shot and adjusted for light conditions. I’ve set it for a shooting speed that will capture action. Only then do I feel that I have done all that I can do to prepare for that once in a lifetime shot.

On this morning though my camera was residing in its bag on the seat beside me and as I crested the hill I came eye to eye and within 20 feet of a bald eagle who had a roadkill deer carcass lifted about 3 feet off the ground. He was struggling mightily with the load and you could almost feel the power coming from the downward beat of his wings. Not taking my eyes off of him I reached my hand into my bag and began drawing out my camera and just like that he was gone. I’ll never know if it was the weight of the carcass or my presence that caused him to abort but I do know that if this had happened today, you’d be looking at the shot instead of hearing me tell you about it.

We all have time to play with adjustments on the stationary landscape or scenery shots but these action packed moments are the ones that we need to be prepared for…those times when you get one shot, maybe even through the windshield, but you get¬†one shot. If there is a next time, I’ll be ready will you?

 

How to jump start your creativity…

double exposure on Morton Slough, Idaho
“late afternoon light and a double exposure on Morton Slough, Idaho”

I have a vision of life, and I try to find equivalents for it in the form of photographs.
Alfred Stieglitz

I am often asked how I stay so creative and where do my ideas come from. The best answer I have would be that I make feeding my creativity a daily habit. I have always been one to have my camera with me at all times but in the past perhaps did not use it every single day. That all changed 600 days ago when a friend of mine suggested that I join blipfoto, a daily journal for photographers, where an image is posted each day and must have been taken on that day. I found the prospect of doing a 365 day project appealing and began posting an image of my world every day. This was not without its own set of challenges and some days, perhaps more so initially, it felt like one more task that I had to get done for the day. In time though it developed a rhythm of its own and I noticed some changes taking place in how I was photographing.
With the advent of digital photography we were all of a sudden able to take hundreds of images and just discard the ones we didn’t like. Why not? There was no film involved and no cost for developing. I took it one more step backwards and with the purchase of my first DSLR realized that I wasn’t doing what I had always done with a film camera which was to shoot it in manual mode and make my own decisions on shutter speed, aperture etc. If you want to be more creative, take your camera off the auto setting and although it may be frustrating at first, you’ll soon wonder why you ever let the camera make decisions for you!
Using my camera every day made me develop a relationship with it again and that in turn fueled the desire to be able to capture images that were more meaningful to me. The volume of photographs that I take has dropped drastically from those early days of digital. I edit those captures every day so I try to make each shot count and get it right, in camera, as often as possible. This lessens the work load too while in the digital darkroom!
So, if you want to jump start your creativity you need to feed it every day. For me, photography is a meditative process and it is when I am in that zone that the magic begins and one idea feeds into the next, and the next, and the next…