Category Archives: Focus

Lesson Learned From A Pelican Instructor

Pelican Flock copy

Walking on the beach seems to help me relax and gain perspective when I need it. The rhythmic sounds of the waves as they rolling onto their sandy landing and the wind that travels for miles, passing by me without slowing as it heads on its journey inland. The environment allows me simple time for extended contemplation.

A few weeks ago while strolling down the beach, camera always at the ready; I was intrigued by a sudden gathering of pelicans just outside the wave breaks. First just a few, then very quickly a flock of more than 50 formed as pelicans arrived as if a frantic invitation had just been dispatched with a call to respond. It was mesmerizing to see this somewhat controlled chaos of birds develop.

It became clear rather quickly what the entire ruckus was about. Food.

For those who may never have had the opportunity to see a pelican up close; these are not the most graceful looking aviators I have seen in the kingdom of the birds. Large heads with long fat wings, up close they look far from aerobatic.

Pier Pelican

What I observed during this frenzy was a different bird than I pictured in the past when observing pelicans.

Flying at a good clip, as they spotted a fish for feeding, they abruptly rolled over and dove with impressive speed headfirst into the water, typically from a height of about 15-25 ft. No hesitation. Total commitment and fully engaged with the task at hand with agility that defies their outward presentation.  And it appeared they were all regularly successful at getting what they had their eye on.Making the turnDiving for dinner

I wonder how long an uncommitted pelican would last. A pelican that regularly had the opportunity to see what it was he or she needed to go after, but was always wavering just a little bit about taking the plunge. The water is too rough. The fish is too deep. What if it hurts when I dive in? What if I miss?

I believe this pelican would not survive long. Hesitation and missed opportunity would get the better of them. They would trade the 10 seconds of full commitment needed in exchange for days of hunger and eventual demise.

I think sometimes I need to realize how important that same 10 seconds can be. See the opportunity. Make the informed decision to risk possible short term failure for the larger opportunity to succeed. I have many successes already. I have many failures as well; but I continue to learn each time that with each failure I am really just creating a new opportunity to succeed the next try.

The pelicans are not hungry because they never give up and they don’t let how they are seen by me influence their willingness to be graceful. Lesson learned.

Do I Know How Far It Is To The Next Place?

JacksRiverFalls

Feeling extra ambitious the other day, I set out on an 8 mile hike to see a waterfall. I was anxious to make a trip like this before the leaves were done changing colors, and hoped to get some great autumn vibrancy captured for this year. The decision was firmed up when the temperatures dropped into a pleasant range and weather cooperated to make the trip enjoyable.

Forty miles of comfortable travel on paved roads brought me to the point of entry for my journey. Fifteen more miles of dirt road traveled slowly with muddy ruts and jarring potholes guided me to a flat spot to park the truck and started the hiking part of my adventure. The first of many choice confronted me. A number of routes were available and the wilderness trail I chose was one of the easier ones, but it connected with multiple others that could lead me astray if I didn’t stay alert.

Ahead of me, the trail started out flat; covered with a blanket of colored leaves that recently took flight from their perches and glided gently to the forest floor. A recent rain dampened the path and the familiar crunch of leaves underfoot was missing from my expected nature soundtrack. There was quiet in fact. Lots of quiet. Too far from the river to hear it even murmur, I was wrapped in the silence that descends from large trees when there is no wind to stir them on a crisp fall morning.

I walked on. The passage of time was lost to me and the weight of worldly stress lifted as the sound of the river grew louder; beating a hasty path over the rocks and trees that attempted to impede its enthusiasm. I let it lead me along until I reached the falls and watched the water yell as it jumped into the waiting pool below with a crash. Camera in hand, I wandered beside as an observer to the wet playground and took portraits of the trees and falling water; cascading poses that dancing sunlight used to build rainbows across my lens. A busy setting of active peace that surrounded me with multiple sensations.

And then it was time to leave. I made certain to find the correct trail and start back, occasionally checking my map just to be sure. I walked and listened; the soft leaves slowly beginning to dry and add character to my step. Walking around a corner, I was suddenly startled by another adventurer briskly heading by. He looked up, just as befuddled to run into someone on this otherwise lonesome trail.

We mumbled pleasantries and then he asked me in an offhand way; “how much further do I have to go?” To which I replied, “That depends on where you are going.” He laughed as he realized how vague he had been and how correct I was. More specifics were conveyed, information passed and we parted company; each going in our own direction.

As I continued on I contemplated the question that my fellow traveler asked and how it really was applicable to more than just this tree covered byway. How often do I start off on a new project before I very clearly identify the end goal? Do I take the time to make certain I’m headed in the right direction before I pick up my pace? Am I willing to stop and ask directions when I need them and when I do; am I careful to make sure the questions I ask are clear enough to get a proper response? Do I know what I want to accomplish next in this life so I can correctly figure out how much further I have to go on this leg of my travels?

I made it safely back to my truck before the sun went down and slowly started the rough ride back to reality. I left this journey with both colorful pictures and some added wisdom to take with me into my next tomorrow.

♦Photo Tip♦ I love to get the glowing, smooth picture of water as it runs over falls or down a rocky creek bed. To do this during the day requires two very important things. A tripod and a neutral density (ND) filter. The best way to get the look of blended water smoothly falling over the rocks is to use a shutter speed slower than 1/30th of a second. This is too slow to hold in your hand and keep the picture sharp. It also will cause the photo to be overexposed in daylight at most settings. The tripod gives you the steady base you need and the ND filter keeps the light down while the lens is open. The pair lets you take pictures like the one above.

The Smell of Happiness and the Vision of Relaxation.

The dampness of the misty morning settles as dew on the petals of the perfect yellow rose. Sunrise reflects across the garden and blushes red through the clouds of the night storm that swept the hillside. I reflect on the magnificence of the perfect rose as the aroma of their sweet fragrance lifts from the surrounding flowers and fills the air with scented happiness.

With ancestry reaching deep into history, the rose is drenched in symbolism. Once considered for currency and always sought after for their beauty, the yellow rose in particular is held out for happiness and friendship. Perhaps it is the likeness the yellow rose has to the radiating sunshine that can warm a hard heart or pull the chill from a stale, cold room.

This rose was found among many in a special garden dedicated to roses from around the world and rich in tradition. I felt compelled to capture the image of the droplets on the face of the flower just as the sun reached over a nearby tree to bath it in its brilliance.

Yellow Rose

It made me smile.

I realized as I moved in close to take the picture that many times I walked by this same scene and paid it no attention. I stood tall and walked quickly and missed the chance to take part in the mini drama of happiness playing out so very close to my own life drama of not-so-happy-ness.

There is the old cliché; “always take time to stop and smell the roses,” which I know we all have heard. But how many times do we let everything else take precedent and push the rose smelling to the bottom of the list? For me; it’s often.

This week I am going to try harder to enjoy the small things that happen closer to earth than my mind lets me wander most days. I love to have my head in the clouds, but the yellow roses are calling to my sensibilities and the desperate need to slow down, take a deep breath, and be present in the moment rather than trying so hard to figure out what the next moment might bring.

Stop and smell the happiness and bend down to notice the vision of relaxation.

Photo Tip♦ So many times we stand up tall and lean back to take pictures of landscapes and groups and forests and wide open spaces. The pictures are beautiful and the subjects so majestic. But don’t forget to move in close sometimes. Stop looking around and start looking down, way down. Find the small subjects that so many of us miss and take their picture so you can share them with those of us who move too fast through the world to realize that there are small things around us that are just as important and just as beautiful to capture in photo-form.

How clear is our Focus?

Some of you may recognize this as a rerun of one of my previous blog postings, but it’s one of my favorites so I updated it to give it new life.

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It rained the other day. Hard.

I like the rainy days, especially if there is a thunderstorm attached. There is something about a good thunderstorm that stimulates the senses; being able to feel the thunder, see the lightening, hear the rain, and smell the clean air. Don’t get me wrong, I like the sunny warm days too, but I find nothing depressing about a good summer thunderstorm The spirit in the storm is somehow invigorating.

As usual, I had my camera with me while out experiencing the storm. I decided to stop driving for a few minutes to be able to enjoy the symphony of the rain with the companion light show…and because I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me while I was moving.

Out the window, the storm was in full force: The pouring rain, the rumbling thunder, the hurried wind. That wind was grabbing rain drops and splashing them across the pavement like a handful of pennies scattered across the floor. The trees were twisting and flailing to the beat of the storm with the strobes of lightening flashing to create motionless moments in chaotic rhythm.

I wanted a picture that captured the vision I was seeing. I pointed the camera, framed the composition, and snapped the perfect shot.

Except the camera, in all its infinite wisdom and technology, focused on the raindrops running across the window I was shooting through. It had no interest in what I wanted it to focus on. It didn’t ask, but just assumed that is what I wanted it to do. I was in such a hurry to get the perfect shot that I didn’t bother to stop and tell it what I wanted it to focus on either.

rainyday

The camera and I both had the same view, reviewed the same sight picture, but ended up focusing on two completely different things. The picture I wanted and the picture the camera captured were not the same.

How interesting it is that metaphors for life just jump out and grab me sometimes.

Many times I am presented with the opportunity to stand next to someone else, look at exactly the same path ahead as they see, but focus on a completely different part of the journey. Our sight was the same, but our vision was not. When we moved to capture the vision we each saw, there was quite a difference in the final picture we both produced, or maybe the picture never developed for either of us.

Clarity is more than just clear vision. I believe it requires a sharper focus. A defined goal and the attention to detail that shows the course, the plan, and the intended outcome. I need to make sure I am focused correctly before I take the next action or the results may be surprising…and not always in a good way.

PhotoTIp♦ Focus can add dramatic effects to photos. Blurring the background can create a strong focal point in the foreground subject. Blurring the fringes of a photograph help to define your subject better. Sometime blur can show motion in a still photo. Slowing down the shutter speed on moving water causes it to get a soft, silky appearance. With autofocus, it’s always a good idea to make sure that you and the camera have the same focus point in mind before taking the picture.

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