summer’s daydreams, poetry
written on feathers.
Light filters through the forest surrounding our house at sundown, and sometimes, like yesterday evening, it becomes a flickering spotlight through a bedroom window. This small phenomenon lasts only brief minutes before the angle of the sun against poplar leaves changes, but if I’m lucky, and one of our cats is curled on the end of our bed (almost a sure thing, as Tabby demonstrates), the effect is dramatic, spontaneous, and beautiful. It’s one reason I keep the Sony NEX on my desk now, because you never know when magic will appear.
“I’m a travelin’ man, I’ve made a lot of stops all over the world.” —Jerry Fuller, songwriter
During the spring of 2001 I visited Fredricksburg, Texas, which is located more-or-less in the middle of an area known proudly as Hill Country.
Looking back on that week I have a few regrets: the bluebonnet flowers (the reason I was there) were sparse due to a drought, which I couldn’t do anything about…I didn’t walk around town in the cool, fresh mornings…and I didn’t order ribs from any of the back-of-the-pickup barbecue vendors parked alongside the highways, with their blackened grills and hand-lettered signs.
One thing I did learn in a hurry about Texans, though, is they don’t want you on their property. They’re not unfriendly—far from it: they simply regard property as private, with a capitol P and posted clearly. Keep Out.
For example: from a small paved road I’d spied a distant meadow dotted with broad oak trees and overrun by those elusive bluebonnets. It was down a red clay track a mile or so, and behind one of Those Signs. With wide-angle visions of the scene in mind I drove to the city library, where the county keeps a basement office to sort out who-owns-what. Within minutes I was looking at a detailed aerial photo of my meadow, and with the owner’s name on a slip of paper I headed over to the service station where (I was told) his caretaker worked. He turned out to be friendly, too, but the ranch’s owner (every spot of land in Texas, no matter how small, is a ranch) lived in San Antonio or Austin (or both) and didn’t want any visitors. So, those bluebonnets wilted without me.
But I didn’t give up. When I drove out of Fredricksburg the next morning I wandering slowly northward, keeping my eyes peeled for flowers, and it was on another narrow stretch of roadway that I met Telfer Wegg.
I’d pulled to the side of the road, set up my tripod, and was shooting one of those Texas-sized landscapes that include plenty of dry brush and cattle when he parked his vehicle in front of mine and came over to do the same. A few lines of conversation established that he, too, wasn’t from around those parts. “Hot, eh?”
Now, that’s an accent I recognize, no doubt aboot it, and I soon learned that he lives in the village of Neustadt in Ontario’s Grey County and works out of a home photography studio—when he’s home. If the weather’s cold he’s likely to migrate towards warmth…Australia or New Zealand, say…and when he isn’t flying somewhere he’s out crisscrossing North America, putting high mileage on his car and high quality through his camera.
There’s no doubt about that, either.
Up with the sun, gone with the wind. —Bob Seger, songwriter
When you consider the hourly rates of professional counselors, therapists, and psychologists, it’s no wonder most of us opt for self-help techniques in our quest for improvement. I was going to say growth, but I’ve come to detest that gauzy word as it’s usually paired with a cheap photo of somebody who owes it all to (insert seminar/book name here). Hmmpf.
I didn’t really wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. But I was thinking about what I might do photographically in this coming year to make it better, and that was almost as bad because it made me think about what I didn’t do this year. And that was…pretty much the same as last year, and the year before.
I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t schedule shoots on a regular basis, instead doing most of my photography on trips with my wife. Fine times, but they require compromises and I miss out, sometimes, on early and late light. (Breakfast on the road, by the way, is the best meal of the day). I didn’t join any photo organizations, didn’t attend meetings about current issues that affect photography, and even let a couple of magazine subscriptions lapse. So what’s wrong with me?
Nothing, really. There are photographers who spend months away from their homes each year, logging millions of travel miles and countless image files, but I couldn’t be one of them (I enjoy my life at home, and would miss the cats). I’m not driven, never have been, and accepted that truth (mostly) after a lot of the self-evaluation we tend towards at this time of year. Popeye said it best: “I yam what I yam.”
But if I can’t reinvent myself I also don’t have to accept the same old version year-in and year-out. I can fiddle with the details, change the channel when necessary. I might try a different lens this year, or do a bit of city shooting. I expect to make a few nice pictures, enjoy them in the moment, and move on.