MY TRADITION WHEN a dog in our household goes to dog heaven is to put their cremains on the shelf with the other dogs’ urns along with a photo album of every photo of the dog I can find — which is usually a lot. Such was the case with our 15-year-old lab who was peacefully euthanized in our home a couple of weeks ago.
As I looked through an old but not quite defunct laptop for photos of Pellie from five to 10 years ago, I was met with hundreds of photos taken around the property. It started me thinking about about the compulsion to photograph nature.
The challenge of getting that great shot when you are on safari in the Serengeti or photographing that bird that you have never seen at your feeder before is one thing. I know that I will definitely want to take a selfie with a blue-footed booby when I finally manage to take a trip to the Galapagos. But it is those everyday, every-year pictures that I find interesting.
For instance, the recent October blue moon showed up on Facebook in numerous attempts to get a good shot. And many were fantastic. But why do we need a shot of our own? There will never be another Pellie, he was unique and special as are each of the photos of him. I suspect, though, that NASA got a few unbelievable images of that blue moon with equipment not even a professional individual photographer would own. But we still seem to need to try to get that image ourselves.
Stealing laundry or swimming in the kiddie pool are hilarious shots of black bears. But just a shot of a black bear walking across the yard? You could see dozens of professionally photographed beautiful black bear shots that aren’t fuzzed out through a screened window or have the top part of the bear’s head obscured by the top of the porch rail. I guess these images are more “proof” images — look what I saw, here is the evidence. And that’s important.
Some photos may not be great images but there is so much meaning in them — like the photo of an evening grosbeak that my brother took outside my kitchen window when a fellow patient got him interested in photography. Who knows how far my brother might have taken his new-found hobby had he not died just a few weeks after purchasing the camera? That grosbeak, out of focus as it is, is a great shot.
Some of us have photo obsessions — quests, if you will, of things like dew drops on a spider web. The quest never ends because anyone who has taken a photo of anything knows that there always just might be a better photo to be taken. I seem to go in phases with my photo obsessions. The patterns of stacked logs, tree leaves, fern fronds, a skim of ice on the top of a puddle, for example.
Birds are one of my uber-topics. If there is a pileated woodpecker in sight on one of the pileated favored hammering or vocalizing spots around the farm, I will get dozens of shots. Some are mediocre, most are bad. Silhouettes if I am lucky. Or the red crest shows but a limb is blocking the bird’s full head. He had just turned the other way when I snapped the picture. That will keep me taking dozens more pictures that next time I see one of the remarkable woodpeckers around.
A flock of bluebirds have been hanging around the horse area — sitting on fences, on the top of the run-in shed, and the ash tree near the barn. They have been around for weeks now and I have almost worn out the shutter button trying to get a worthy shot.
Mushrooms seem to be another occasionally favored photography subject of mine. This obsession comes and goes with the weather. Several years back we had one of the wettest falls ever and mushrooms exploded throughout our woods. I could barely walk 10 yards without seeing another remarkable specimen that I just had to photograph. The pictures folder on that old laptop has dozens of mushroom images stored. Another good use of taking photos is that many, despite the quality of the image, are good enough for identification.
I am sure a few readers are nodding their heads in solidarity when I say that my picture folder on my laptop, my images file on my iPad, and my saved pictures on my phone all have more than one shot of animal poop. Identifying scat is an elusive skill. Taking the photo is better than taking the scat home to identify it. But be careful of showing friends your camera roll on your phone during a lunch date! Just as you are trying to show your friend your new puppy, the coyote scat picture will likely roll to the front.