………….as in my garden, my camera and myself. We are a love connection. I love taking pictures; I always have, but now that I have a good digital SLR camera, I’m an addict. I’ve taken photographs of everything from mountains to rainbows to the pollen stuck to a honeybee’s legs, and plants, always plants. I’ve taken pictures so obsessively on trips that I’ve been forced to wonder if it is actually impairing my ability to enjoy an outing or a vacation or a holiday or a visit with a friend. Sometimes, I have little memory of the day save for the images in the folders on my computer. My camera should be a tool; sometimes it IS my eyes. My only other MO seems to be to take no pictures whatsoever; no middle ground for me.
Now that digital photography is widely used, all of us photographer wannabes get to feel like the real deal, and not go broke doing it. I know there are purists who disapprove of digital and still use film. That’s fine, and I have no argument with them; I’m not qualified to argue with them. This is just fun for me – serious, obsessive, compulsive FUN. Other than my dogs, it’s my most perfect relationship.
Last year, I was without my camera for almost a month while it was in the shop for a malfunction of the shutter mechanism. I was depressed. I had my Droid, but that just didn’t work for me. It’s small and not altogether predictable, terrible for inside shots and besides, it didn’t provide the weight of a camera in my hand. It felt wrong. Now, if my camera ever even hesitates, I visualize dark and dreary days ahead without the light and life of fresh images………as if I were losing my own eyes. I know, I’m a sicko and should be separated from my camera, cold turkey, right now, for both our sakes!
As a gardener, photographs allow me to chronicle the changes in my garden. Some of the changes are just about growth and maturity (of the plants, not the photographer!) and some are about the renovating and editing and tweaking that I seem genetically predisposed to do. That’s another addiction, perhaps for another post. Sometimes I wonder if I garden just so I have something close at hand to photograph…….I do love gardening but I’m not sure it would be as much fun if I couldn’t take pictures of it.
Some of my photographs are really beautiful; I’m not a highly skilled photographer by any definition, but I do take lots and lots of pictures. With hundreds of shots, some are bound to be good.
I love being able to look at the body of a butterfly in a photo and have my curiosity piqued to look something up and learn more about those captivating creatures. I’ve taken many photos that reveal something my eyes didn’t catch. A photo holds the subject still for me to examine the details of its appearance.
Obviously, photos have always served the purpose of preserving our history and stirring memories of significant events in our lives. As memories fade, a photo will often bring back a flood of feelings no longer residing in our conscious minds. Even in the course of a day, a photo will aid me remembering the details of a plant’s habit or an insect’s coloration. Was the edge of the leaf serrated or smooth? Were there two or three black spots on the caterpillar’s back?
Now that I’m blogging, the importance of photographs is even greater. The freedom we have in illustrating our points and our stories is limited only by the images we can produce ourselves or obtain without copyright infringement. I sometimes find that I tailor the words in a blog post to the available shots I have to support them. I’m not sure that’s the way I should be doing it, but it’s what happens. Nobody wants to just read five paragraphs of opinion in a garden blog. This is not the New York Times editorial page; this is me telling you about my experience, my thoughts, my garden. And just think, with one good picture, I’m sparing you 1,000 more words!
Last summer, I was out in my front yard when I noticed four goldfinches sitting on top of a fence, evenly spaced and all facing the same direction. Something alerted them and, in unison, all four flew up a few feet and then undulated downward and up again until they were gone from my sight. It was a gorgeous sight, a treasure, a treat. Of course, I immediately bemoaned the fact that I didn’t have my camera with me, but just as quickly realized that I wouldn’t have had time to catch them all together anyway and what were the chances that I would have gotten a clear shot? Pretty much nil. So, I have the memory instead of the shot.
This year, it’s goldfinches again that are challenging me and the circumstances are such that SURELY I can get a great shot of them this time! I’ve been planning and plotting for a few weeks now about how to get that shot, because they’re just asking for it!
I’ve got new windows this year, including a picture window in the dining room chosen specifically for birdwatching, a fortuitously placed Verbena Bonariensis about fifteen feet from the window, with no obstructions, and a fairly regular supply of goldfinches in that Verbena between 3pm and dusk. I’ve seen one, two, three and four of them at a time, both male and female. Their diminutive bodies are light enough to just tip the branches down a few inches.
I’ve had to learn how to take photos through my new double-paned windows. I have to disable the flash, which activates automatically when needed; otherwise I get a shadow of myself clouding the shot. So far, I’ve only been able to catch photos of two finches at a time through the window – and they’re not great shots – but I’m not giving up.
I’ve tried sitting on my front porch with the camera on a tripod and the screened porch door propped open, just waiting. I’ve tried sneaking out my side door and walking around to the front to surprise them, but invariably they are startled by me or people walking by with their dogs.
One evening last week, I pulled up to my house just before seven o’clock and saw FIVE goldfinches perched in the Verbena, just waiting for me……..or were they taunting me?!? It was such a sight, with their brilliant yellow feathers against the green foliage and purple blooms, that I didn’t want to breathe. Of course at the same time, I was kicking myself for not having my good camera with me and for parking in such a way that my winter honeysuckle was right between me and a good shot. I had my Droid, and I did take a picture, but it was a dud.
In his book, Garden Photography, a Professional Guide, Tony Cooper says, “Last winter, the seeds on a clump of Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ in my garden were visited regularly by goldfinches, and to have them feeding for up to a quarter of an hour not 15ft from the kitchen window was a great opportunity.”
Thank you, Tony Cooper! I’ve got a lot of ‘Goldsturm’, and I can be very patient.