Friday, May 25, 2012

Good enough for an amateur

Tiger swallowtail
Just moments after we walked up the hill behind my house the other day, my birdwatching-and-botanizing colleague stood stock-still and said, "Did you hear that?" 

I could hear many things--birds calling, frog croaking, insects buzzing around my ears--but she soon drew my attention to a wheezy call that sounded sort of like "Bee-buzz."

"It's a blue-winged warbler," she said, "and it seems to be over in that hawthorn."

Well it may have been in that hawthorn at that moment, but the warbler's call moved farther away as we crept closer. I don't know how long we spent stalking that particular bird before my colleague called out "There it goes!"--and there it went.

Cedar waxwing, too high for a clear shot
I caught a brief glimpse of the blue-winged warbler (and the yellow-billed cuckoo, green heron, indigo bunting, and common yellowthroat we saw later) and as much as I enjoyed those brief glimpses, I would have been more excited if I'd been quick enough to get a photo. My colleague was thrilled simply to hear the bird and over the moon when she saw it fly, but me? I need to get the shot.

Recently someone asked me what I would like to have done if I hadn't become an English professor, and I said, "wildlife photography," but of course this is ridiculous. At the time when I was in a position to choose my life's work, I wasn't thinking about wildlife or photography or anything outside the realm of writing. I didn't have the talent, the will, or the desire--and besides, I loved to write and knew I could do it well enough to make a living, so why step off the obvious path into the dark, dangerous swamp?

Cicada time!
I didn't know then how much I would come to love photography or how the camera could provide a link to the wonders of the wild. The more I learn about photography, the more I become aware of how much I still need to learn--but that doesn't make me love it any less. I'm frustrated sometimes by the shots I can't seem to get--those cedar waxwings, for instance, were just too high in the treetops for my limited zoom lens--but most of the time I'm happy to be a good-enough photographer. Good enough for an amateur, at least, recalling that the word amateur derives from the Latin amator, lover. I love my birds 'n' buds 'n' butterflies, but I really really love getting a good shot.


Cicada clings to the top of the leaf, discarded skin stuck on the bottom.

Red-bellied woodpecker with claws stuck to soffit.

It clung to the leaf even when we picked it up.

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