Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Everywhere and Nowhere

Center of the Universe
Barefoot Beach, Florida
August 2008

"Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere."

It's summer, and I'm working on projects that have been sleeping for a time; dormant in the flurry of work's busy season. Sorting the past 10 month's photos is both exciting and tedious.

I tend to worry about all sorts of things with these projects: my eye sees differently from day to day, and yesterday's deleted trash may well be today's treasure; storage space nips at the heels of my shutter actuations and it tends to drive me to delete with wild abandon; I get distracted easily, making the cull and edit process sporadic at best; surely, Discipline is not my middle name. It sometimes seems easy to get into a project's trenches and start hauling out the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" arsenal.

I've been spending time with a young photographer this summer, helping him develop new photo products and create his own web site. I'm pretty much in awe of this kid. He has more gumption, drive and accomplishment at 14 than I have at...well...this age.

Matt was born with cerebral palsy. That he walks and writes and runs is testament to his own tenacity and his parent's loving patience. Yesterday, he told me about recently catching his first football while running. It sounds like nothing, really; just a kid catching a football his dad threw. And then you think about how many attempts it took, how much difficult groundwork it took to even be able walk let alone run, and it just humbles you.

A few years ago, Matt found a passion in photography, and decided he wanted to become a National Geographic photographer. In the short time I've known him, he's taken off running with precise focus toward that goal. The local papers picked up his story and displayed his photographs, and soon, started giving him assignments. He's sold his photographs at more outdoor venues already that many of us "seasoned" pros. And that's just the business end.

The act of taking a photo is not a small deal for Matt. Cerebal palsy makes him tremble, and it's been difficult for him to get crisp, sharp hand-held telephoto photos. But he does. I know it takes him many, many shots, but he never seems to get frustrated. Blurry photos don't seem to dampen his drive; they make him try harder. I've watched him work a subject (burrowing owls, for instance) and he reminds me that patience is essential to photographers. We tend to forget that, and in this day of instant, digital everything, you can often end up with nothing if you don't practice it and learn to see. And for all Matt's challenges, that young man can see. He reminds us all that the tool in your hands is never a replacement for the vision in your heart and eye.

As I edit and cull and work through photos I've long forgotten these past months, I'm reminded of the joyous shine in Matt's eyes when we talk about photography. I'm reminded that what could seem tedious - going through folder after folder of unedited photos - is really a process of discovery. I can clearly remember taking each photograph; how the air was charged with light particles (or not); the palette of outdoor sounds; the thrill of "seeing" something and wondering if you managed to capture what you saw. I'm reminded that this art, with all it's ups and downs and supposed tedium, can be a lot like double-dipping in the creative gift bowl.

Recycled joy.

There is no limit, or circumference, to what is possible. Matt reminds me of that. We are each, and all, creative beings; beauty and possibility are both everywhere, and nowhere. The choice is ours.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 24-120mm VR

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Flight Lessons

First Take-off
Adult and Fledgling Least Terns
June 2009
Wiggins Pass, Florida

Checking for wheels up...
Least Terns
June 2009

Wiggins Pass, Florida

"I pick the prettiest part of the sky and I melt into the wing and then into the air, till I'm just soul on a sunbeam."
--Richard Bach

Current Designs Kestrel Kayak, Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400mm VR

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Smooth Approach

Smooth Approach
Least Tern
June 2008
Wiggins Pass, FL

“You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.”
--Henry David Thoreau

I will readily admit that I have fallen in love these past several weeks. I'm quite unabashed about it, in fact.

For a few months now, a large flock of least terns have been mating, nesting, fledging and teaching their young how to fly at one of my favorite local just-after-dawn-and-low-tide birding spots.

It's been quite a spectacle this year. For the first time, Delnor-Wiggins State Park has taken an avid interest in attracting them, roping off a big hunk of the upper reaches of the beach where I typically pull the kayak out of the water for a break. Even more interesting, they invested in some least tern decoys, these totally wacked and weird painted wooden things that, strangely enough, seem to do the trick. Just the other day, I watched an adult and a fledgling actually rub up against some of the decoys. Who says love isn't blind?

So it's been quite grand, all this activity. Clouds of terns swarming above me as I float on top of roiling bait is mesmerizing. I've watched adults pair bond, mate and sit on nests. I've seen their young do a toddler's walk down to the water line for the first time, then, the next day, take wing. As a good friend from Alaska would say, "It's all good."

I float for hours along the back side of one of the adult's favorite oyster bars, captivated by landings and takeoffs, tiny fish speared by pointed beaks. Power boaters pass by me and stare. Ha! Crazy woman in the yellow kayak with the camera again, photographing what?? These birds are tiny and from a distance, the oyster bar looks empty. Hours later, they pass by again and I'm still there.

I float and watch and feel enchanted. I think about their near extinction in the early 1900's because ladies liked to wear them (whole) in their hats. I watch their skill and confidence in flight; wings moving so fast, they're simply a blur.

Yes, it seems I've fallen in love. Dozens of hours and hundreds of shutter actuations later, I'm pretty sure they love me back.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400mm VR

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Storms in the Everglades

Eye in the Storm
May 2009
Turner River Road, FL

"Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes."
--Ludwig van Beethoven

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 18-200VR