A bluebird landed ten yards ahead, as my good friend, Scott, and I emerged from the woods. I fumbled with my camera, eager to catch the wonderful juxtaposition of the brilliant bird on a dark, weathered sign. I checked the settings, raised the long lens, and…
...it was gone.
I hadn’t been ready.
But that’s why Scott and I had each set aside this day from our busy travel schedules: to help me learn from him how to take better nature shots. He’s an internationally known nature writer and speaker. What is not as well known is his keen understanding of photography. I had asked him to give me a few tips. He was eager to help.
The first lesson was to better understand the combinations that went into taking a long, slow capture of a waterfall to give the rapids a silky feel.
On the way back, I had missed a dramatic framing of a chipmunk perched in a ray of light on gnarled tree roots eye level with the path. But it caused me to notice this rather grumpy-looking fellow. Scott showed me how to use the tripod and a timer to get a richly detailed shot of him.
A little later, we came across this butterfly.
In this world of instant online tutorials, instruction is easy to find. But videos and web-guides are a pale comparison to a flesh-and-blood instructor. Teachers have enthusiasm. And lessons fit more into a broader context. For Scott, nature photography is more than configuring f-stops and film speed. It’s about knowing the subject matter.
Sensing my disappointment over missing the bluebird, he said, “Let’s sit on that bench. The signpost is most likely one of his territorial perches. He’ll be back.”
And sure enough, a few minutes later, the bird returned. I got my shot. And with it, I realized that a major reason why I enjoy photography is because it is another way to co-create. Nature provides impromptu, unexpected opportunities, ready to be a part of a new, creative work. But as Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors a prepared mind." Those opportunities test my preparedness and knowledge and artist's eye. Even the bluebird seemed to turn to me with a lecturing look that said, "You ready now?"
Of course, it's easier to be prepared for a test with the teacher at my side giving me the answers!