The hummingbirds have long since moved on from where I am now to warmer places for the winter. I don’t blame them. More than once in the past few months I also considered flying south until the weather warmed up.
When they are in town, these little acrobats always amaze me with their antics. Trying to get a picture of them teaches me great patience as well. They move fast, rarely stay in one place very long, and tend to be a little apprehensive around me and my big black camera; even when using a zoom lens and sitting very still a ways away.
The average hummingbird weighs in at a whopping 3 grams. For comparison; the nickel in your pocket weighs 4.5 grams. It seems that the hummingbird is a lot of fluff. They are also one of the most aggressive bird species around and have no hesitation to take on big blue jays, crows, and even hawks that infringe on their territory.
As small as they are; there are some specific species that migrate more than 2000 miles every year. A few even include a 500 mile nonstop journey across the Gulf of Mexico. Makes me tired just trying to comprehend that trip.
As migratory birds, hummingbirds serve two very important purposes. They can transport resources between ecosystems located thousands of miles apart. They also assist with pollination, which is vital to many trees and flowers that would not be able to reproduce without the aid of the mighty hummingbird.
All this is interesting to some degree, but why do I care about this pocket-sized bird?
To me it is a small package with large-sized inspiration all around it.
I’m encouraged that the size of this bird does not impact its vision of what it can achieve. Size plays no part in deterring it from pushing toward the goals it needs to accomplish. The hummingbird doesn’t stop to worry about the bigger competition, larger obstacles, or percived impediments. It can move quicker and in different directions than the larger birds it encounters. There is no indication that this bird spends any wasted time considering areas of weakness and uses all its unique attributes as strengths for accomplishing the task at hand.
The hummingbird does not appear to have a confidence problem; and it proves itself with remarkable feats that would not be considered reasonable by just looking at its stature. I like the way this little bird thinks big.
All business and all great projects start as a small thought or idea, but with proper nurturing they can grow into big accomplishments and a create lasting impact even from a small footprint.
Like the pint-sized squeaker; I’ll continue to focus on the staying power of consistent determination and watch small philosophies become large successes.
Look closely at the photo above. I love the calm, mirrored surface of a pond and a crowd of willing models gracefully standing still to have their picture taken.
Interesting thing about pictures in modern times. Things are not always as they appear. The digital age is a wonderful time to practice photography for sure. I remember when I first started taking pictures with a 35mm Pentax camera using rolls of film. The photos required perfection when you snapped the shutter; there was anticipation in the darkroom as the negatives developed, and there was at times disappointment when you realize hours after taking a picture that you missed the shot that you hoped to capture. Digital photographers will never feel that emotional pit in their stomach that was so devastating as a roll of film gone bad or a picture missing attention to detail that isn’t realized until long after the chance to re-shoot is gone. I don’t miss that at all.
And that’s a good thing! Now I can take pictures, see my work immediately, and when shooting non-moving landscape; delete and try again if needed. It is a wonderful thing.
The challenge in today’s photo world is for the observer. With tools like Lightroom and Photoshop, I can not only “fix” photo issues after the fact, but I can literally create entire canvases of images I never saw except in my mind. I can transform photographs into personalized art. I can also attempt to manipulate what I want my audience to see or feel when they look at the pictures I take.
The picture at the top of the page is actually cropped and rotated 180 degrees so that what you think are the trees actually are just their reflection. A keen eye may notice on their initial look the subtle feeling that something wasn’t right, but even I tend to believe what I see at first glance.
Life can be tricky this way as well. It’s so important that with all that goes on around me, I don’t fall into the trap of always just accepting things at face value. When I do, I become a pawn to those who will happily take advantage of a malleable personality that comes with “crowd thinking”. I am who I am. I am responsible for who I become. I have to be vigilant on a daily basis to be certain that my perception is correct before I let it become my reality.
The alternative is to find myself upside down in this crazy world and never being able to figure out which way is up.
The temperature hung around freezing for over a week and I responded by staying indoors in the warmth and comfort of a controlled climate, watching the world through my protective window until I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
Grabbing my cameras and layering up for the cold, I set out to see a waterfall that I wanted to photograph. A few inches of new snow-covered the trail, and the blank canvas of white made it clear no other soul was walking the path ahead of me. The winter blanket provided a sound dampening layer to the forest floor around me and the silence broken only by the crunch of my boots and the occasional falling icicles from the branches high above me.
I heard the falling water long before I saw it. Making my way carefully down the slippery trail, the river came into view and then the target of the journey.
Heavy sheets of ice hung from the rock walls alongside the waterfall, building slowly from the freezing mist that danced with the wind in the small canyon; coating the ground and the trail that passed behind the cascade as well. A clear challenge presented itself. The best angle to photograph this scene was on the other side of the river. The trail to get there passed behind the waterfall and was clearly covered in thick ice. I cautiously started to navigate the obstacle course and very quickly realized that I was setting myself up for failure. The path had an almost imperceivable slope that announced itself with clarity once I started down it, moving me toward the wall of water and associated freezing river. I just wasn’t in the mood to go for a cold swim.
I re-evaluated my situation and gave myself a conservative 20% success rate of making it through this part of the journey unscathed; and then I quickly but carefully turned around.
I backtracked down the river and found a much more pleasant crossing point and did some off-trail navigating to get to where I wanted to shoot from. The picture above was one of the many I took that day.
I face new challenges everyday. Some of them are self-imposed and some of them present unexpectedly. Few are life threatening and most are easily negotiated. I look forward to each one of these challenges because they are what help me to continually develop my sense of judgement, they strengthen my self-worth, and they create a positive history of accomplishment or failure.
Positive failure? Yes. I don’t ever see failure as a bad thing for me; because I never fail by choice and I never fail from giving up. When I fail it’s only the result of my best efforts not being successful and does not reflect on my character or my abilities. With each, I have a new foundation of knowledge and a new skill set to learn.
The people who need to fear failure are those who use it an excuse to stop trying. I welcome it as a reason to try harder.
I am thankful for the opportunity to wake up each morning and know that by choice, I am always walking the path to success. The slippery slopes I wander upon may create the need for me to change direction, but they don’t require me to give up on the goal of the journey and with determination I keep moving forward.
The elderly man shuffles slowly down a deserted street, fatigue weighing heavily on his shoulders. The broom he pushes falls without ceremony to the ground as he grabs to his hat. Gusting wind sends old paper wrappers and an empty can clanking down the empty street before it. Cigarette butts litter the sidewalk, mixed with confetti and slowly dying balloons. The dampness from a recent rain brings up the musty smell of wet cardboard into the air, rising from the nearby alleyway clogged with old boxes and burdened with evidence of population overload.
Two days ago it was impossible to walk this same path without being jostled about by the crowd. Not today. The holiday is passed and the parade is over. What was festive is now dull and lifeless with little to celebrate but the triumph of one more block to clean and the knowledge that another days work will be offered. The gentleman picks up his broom from where it fell, adjusts his hat and starts the repetitive motion of pushing filth once again.
Sometimes work is just that. Work. According to the Deloitte Shift Report in 2013, a whopping 89% of the workforce is not passionate about their jobs. 11% responded that they felt passionate about what they did for a living. Only 11%. Ouch.
I tried to be passionate a few times, but work got in the way. Too many people whose passion is themselves and they pay for it at the expense of others. I still hold onto promise and search regularly for the passion to make tomorrow’s work a focus of desire and not just a necessity. I need the hope. One day I hope not to need the job.
In the interim, I take pictures and reflect on the moments they capture. I use the memories of frozen pixels as a handhold to lift me from the struggles of today into the hopefulness of tomorrow. I see the storms of life and know they too shall pass, usually with a powerful sunset and the refreshing calmness that following a summer thunderstorm. I stare into the calm waters and see the reflection of clouds moving to their next adventure. I wait patiently for my next adventure as well.
The street sweeper continues to push his broom, knowing the next parade will someday come and go with celebration and fanfare. I will continue to find the reflections of optimism in the pictures I take and we will both wake tomorrow with a renewed sense of purpose.
Before we begin today’s blog discussion…please take a moment and enjoy the picture above. The simple panorama of a forest, filled with a mix of young small trees and slightly larger ones. The ground is a carpet of gentle flowing ferns. Imagine the cool air that surrounds you. Take a deep breath and smell the fresh pine scented air; crisp and clean. The quietness is very loud here and in the distance you can just make out the faint sounds of a small stream journeying down the mountain in search of the sea. This is a great place to contemplate the importance of perspective.
I like to think that I am a pretty intuitive person. I would venture a guess that most of us feel the same way. I am in touch with my surroundings. I understand the plight that my fellow travelers contend with every day and feel I have insight to their trials and tribulations. I am only judgmental in my thoughts and sometimes in my actions because I know so much about what goes on around me…or maybe I don’t.
I know from basic psychology and common sense that there are only two real dynamic influences for my behaviors; the situational factors (or external and environmental) I am responding to, and my disposition (or internal; my own biases or perceptions).
We also know from studies of human nature that how we tend to see the world is reflective of how we see ourselves.
If I am going to be completely honest, I tend to lose perspective in most situations with others and only consider the situation; the external influences. In doing so, I lose the opportunity to consider what might be going on internally to the people and behaviors I so quickly judge. When they act in a manner I don’t like do I ever consider what they might be dealing with instead of just how their behavior affect me? As the old adage goes; perhaps I’m so focused on the trees that I can’t see the whole forest around me.
Like the picture above. Here is another shot taken in the same spot:
That’s me standing in front of a 2500 year old giant redwood tree. Now go back and look at the first picture again. A forest of giant redwoods. Different perspective, different story.
I think about getting cut off in traffic. My thought always jumps to making judgements about the character and motivation of the person in the car or truck that cut me off and it is always focused on how they somehow just did ME wrong and how that makes ME feel. I tend to get angry.
But what if they were distracted because they just received some terrible news? What if they were excited about heading to the airport to pick up their son returning from the war? What if, what if, what if? So many possible reasons for them cutting me off and none of them really had anything to do with ME. Sure, they should be more careful and they should pay better attention, but in the big picture world; I was paying attention and no harm came from the interaction. We could both just move on with our day.
I think it is time to take things from a different perspective and I just bet it will allow me to have a better day.
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.
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.
Every morning we awake and go through the motions of what will be our legacy for the day…until the sun sets and the colorful lights fade, and the moments allotted us for that period once again pass along into eternity.
What we accomplish and who we touch and what we say; these all play together to create other tomorrows for us and for those with whom we have interacted. These contact moments are the lifeless lumps of clay that we give away for others to work with and mold them to create their own life stories. Once hardened in the kiln of memories, and glazed with the colors of love, these timeless moments can be packed away and treasured for as long as we continue to care for them.
Through their power, even in the dark of the coldest night, they give us the opportunity to feel comfort from the warmth of growing friendship and kindred spirits.
So as you travel your life’s journey, always carry the knowledge that you are special. By mere existence, you have the chance to touch another life and spark an ember of warmth that will continue to glow and spread a spirit of joy; always connected. You are now destined to continue to do great things. You are a comforter, a servant, perhaps a caregiver to many, a leader of some…but most importantly…always capable of being a friend.
♦Photo Tip♦ A tripod or a place to brace your camera is essential for early morning or late evening shots. The slower shutter speed will highlight any movement and blur it. For water shots, this can be just the soft focus you are looking for, but for the surrounding area, you want it to be tack sharp with a steady camera.
The sky is clear and the sun is shining. Weather experts tell me there is a chance of rain, but I just can’t see that happening today.
As the day progresses, white cotton-soft clouds start to appear on the horizon. Floating high above the horizon, effortlessly dancing in sea-blue sky. More clouds, yes, but a storm coming? I don’t see how it could be possible.
The clouds start to band together in rough and tumble groups. Fluffy white pillows of moisture begin to push together into light grey gatherings. The blue sky is now the minority here, giving up to the darkened coverings.
The wind is picking up. Rumor has it that the weather could get a little rough, but I just don’t see it. From my perspective things don’t look that bad.
I can’t see the sky anymore. The once white-grey clouds are all grey now and getting darker. On the horizon, it looks like there may be some rain starting. We could use a little rain, and a shower will make the greenery happy.
Folks are saying that a thunderstorm is in the future, but I just don’t see it happening. This rain looks gentle. The wind isn’t that bad. I’m sure it will pass.
Things are getting darker now. The sun is nowhere to be found. I think I heard a little thunder in the distance and the gentle rain on the horizon is now much closer. It looks like it’s coming down a bit harder too. There was something on the radio about a storm warning, but I just don’t see it getting that much worse. I close my eyes and begin to feel the wet rain falling on my skin. This feels nice. Why would anyone be worried about a little rain?
It only takes a few moments for the horizon to suddenly disappear. The sky is black. The wind is howling. The needled rain hurts as it pelts exposed skin. It doesn’t feel so nice any more. A flash of blinding light appears with a deafening crack. Scared is relative. Frightened beyond belief is more appropriate. Where did this storm come from? Why didn’t anyone warn me that things would be this bad? I’m wet. I’m cold. I’m stranded out here, exposed and alone. Why me? I can’t possibly survive!
I hear a voice through the raging storm, and follow the sound to the shelter of a poorly lit enclave. Still cold, still wet, but no longer exposed to the elements. The fear starts to subside. A fellow traveler who was caught in the same surprise storm I was emerges from the darkness.
Interesting; his view of the storm is different. He says he knew of the storm approaching well before it arrived. He says it was predicted and ample warning was broadcast to all. The sudden changes that happened around him weren’t a surprise to him. Huh. I wonder how I missed that?
Could it be that I have become I am a member of that not-so-elite group? Have I joined the folks with the narrowing world view? Am I so focused on myself that I just ignore the world around me until being forced to pay attention, and even then still missing the big picture because I’m so wrapped up in just what happens in my own little world space? No wonder life is not as exciting and full of wonderment as I remembered it in the past!
I think I might try harder to give more notice to my surroundings and be mindful of things other than just myself. It is so true that a happy life cannot be lived fully in a vacuum. Care to join me?
♦Photo Tip♦ Sometimes cloudy days are the best type of day to go out and take pictures. No harsh shadows. The clouds will act like a giant diffusion filter and cast a soft light on subjects giving them a more even tone. The rain doesn’t have to be the enemy either; we just have to be careful about wet cameras and lenses. I use a cheap disposable shower cap to cover the camera on drizzly days-the kind you might find in a hotel room. It will cover the camera without covering the front of the lens. A soft lens cloth to intermittently clean the drops from the front keeps the pictures crisp.
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.
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.
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.
I’m not a patient person by nature. I really try to be; but like most of us in this encompassing culture of instant gratification, I like for things to happen faster than they usually do. We’re programmed by our surroundings to expect things to happen quickly or we think something is wrong.
I still remember the days when pictures from across the Country had to travel by mail and the journey required 5-7 days to complete. Now pictures from across the world arrive almost instantaneously from people and places I’ve never met or seen.
The hurry up world we live in can take its toll on us if we let it. I feel it tugging at my soul when I try to sit quietly and just enjoy the next minute to arrive. I know there are times when I miss out on moments of clarity or opportunities of interest because I am just not patient enough for them to arrive in my time. But every once in awhile I am faced with a choice for patience and I know that to capture the moment I want, there is no correct decision except the one that says to just wait.
This photo is just such a moment.
One morning last fall I drove up before dawn into the dark of the Tennessee Smokey Mountains. There was a location that I knew had deer, turkey and other wildlife wandering at sunrise and I wanted to see if they might cooperate for some pictures.
After parking my car and walking about a half a mile through the damp air, the sunlight slowly started to filter through the thick morning fog that settled during the night into the area around me. As I turned toward the east, it occurred to me that just as the sun were to pop over the mountain behind this tree, I believed that the resulting sunburst would be spectacular. Should I wait and see if my intuition was correct, or should I wander on and find the “next best picture” that might appear? I chose to wait, and so I sat down. It took about 20 minutes from the time I stopped until the sun peeked over the hill. When it did I was ready. This photo is one of many I got that day, some truly amazing. I still believe that had I kept going, none of the other opportunities that followed me through my day would have been available. The timing would have changed and so would the course of my day and the subjects of my pictures.
Now I try to make certain that I at least take the time for consideration when I feel myself getting impatient. What will I miss if I hurry on? What will I gain if I stop and wait? I think it’s best to avoid being in so much of a hurry that we miss the journey entirely. Perhaps this week is a good one to try and slow down.
♦Photo Tip♦ Morning light is a great photo enhancer. I’m not as much of a morning person as I used to be, but getting up early sometimes is the only way to grab the really great shots. It amazes me how just being out at dawn can cause average photos to become eye-catching photos when the rising sun, the morning dew, and the misty fog all cooperate to create backdrops and enhancements to add a “wow” factor to the subject I want to shoot. Take advantage of the natural light show that arrives early with the sun.