Because Bob and I have been hiking for more than twenty years now, I have always thought that we were careful travelers through places that are home to the creatures of the forest. We don’t leave garbage behind, and we keep our distance when we spot wildlife. It is a show of respect for them, and most often, our distance creates a feeling of careful comfort for the wildlife we pass along the trail. Still, there are times when we inadvertently get a little close. It isn’t because we were careless, but rather that we didn’t see them and I guess they didn’t see us in time either. Most often this occurs with animals like chipmunks, squirrels, mice, or birds, but sometimes deer too. It is times like these that I realize that we are really interlopers in their world. Somehow, that never exactly occurred to me before.
While hiking the Centennial Trail in the area where it crosses the tracks for the 1880 Train, beginning at the Big Pine trailhead, and going to the Samelius trailhead, we came across several Ruffed Grouse. They were in the grass right beside the trail. We didn’t see them, and somehow we managed not to disturb them until we were just steps past them. Suddenly they were spooked by our presence, and we were spooked by theirs. The second they bolted, we were so startled that I tried to get the picture of them, and all I got was the turkey that had been there with them. The picture of the turkey in itself was kind of cool though, because somehow the turkey manage to be behind a small tree at just the right angle to be almost invisible to my camera’s eye. I had to look close to realize that I had caught anything in my shaken state.
It was then that I began to think about the fact that no matter how careful, or quiet, or respectful we are, we are still interlopers in their world, and it is still disturbing to them to some degree. True, the lone doe eating grass simply stood and watched us, and the bird intent on the worm it was taking back to its babies went about its business, and the mouse eating grass allowed us to pass by quite closely, and the frog sitting in the water puddle decided that he was not going to jump, even if we were very close by. They allowed us to be in close proximity to them, somehow trusting that we were not there to hurt them. Nevertheless, even with their guarded trust, they still felt like we did not belong there. We were still in their world, and they would prefer that we would leave.
This revelation will not change the fact that we like to hike, nor will it keep us from hiking, because hiking is what we do, but it does give me a new respect for the creatures who live along the trails we like to hike. I feel a new desire to somehow tiptoe through their backyard without disturbing them too much. I want to be the stranger that they allow to pass quietly through, even if they take a guarded stance, because I am not there to hurt them, but rather just to take a peek into their world. All we want is to quietly pass through and drink in the beauty that the animals may not notice any more that we do our own living room, because to them it is normal and everyday, but to us it is extraordinary.
Sometimes, you have to do something that makes you happy. That is how I feel about photography. Not everyone sees what I see in my pictures…but I see it. They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and I always thought they meant finding love, but it really means any kind of beauty. My photography may not be beautiful or even unique to everyone, but to me each shot is an amazing expression of my own discovery. I say discovery, because most of the time, I don’t do anything, but see something that I think is photo worthy. Sometimes, I see other people who like the same kinds of things that I do, but just as often, other artists have very different styles than I do. And some seem very strange to me, as perhaps my photography does to others.
This past weekend, while Bob and I were in Thermopolis, we took the time to walk along the river, and up by the hot springs pools. The birds, including ducks, geese, and at least one Great Blue Heron, live in the area year round. It seems strange that they don’t migrate south, until you realize that with the hot springs, the river and especially the pools provide a warm climate for them. This makes migration unnecessary, and that is a cool thing for the people who love to visit the area. The birds, while not tame, are very much used to the scores of people who come to the area, and while they will not let you get seriously close to them, they are much more tolerant of people nearby…provided you move slowly. Of course, for the sake of my photography, having a child try to run up to the birds provides a perfect opportunity to try to get a good “flight” photograph.
Flight photographs are much harder to take than one would think. While all birds fly, and fly often, it is not that easy to take their picture doing it. They go very fast, and trying to chase them with your cameral lens and focus in time is not easy. Then, there is the problem of catching them in a position where they actually look like than a bird and not a ball of feathers. A tripod doesn’t work for this type of picture, obviously, because you have to be able to move. In reality, the best way to take this type of picture is to get your camera ready, and have someone move quickly toward the birds, making them fly away. While that may not be a spontaneous photograph, it is often the best way to get that coveted “in flight” shot. While I didn’t ask them to, there were kids who caused my birds to take flight. To me, it doesn’t really matter what made the birds take flight, but rather the fact that they took flight that makes the scene photo worthy.
We had a chance to spend some time on the mountain at my boss, Jim’s cabin this last weekend. It was just so peaceful to sit and watch the hummingbirds. I look back on the time we spent there, and it occurs to me that there wasn’t a lot of talking, just bird, and squirrel, watching. I suppose that could have looked, to someone outside the situation, like we were ignoring our hosts, but everyone’s eyes were transfixed on the flurry of activity at the hummingbird feeders.
The birds vied for the best feeding spot, hungrily feasting on the sugar water dinner they were so generously provided. Jim and Julie were telling us of the massive amounts of sugar they go through just to keep their little charges satisfied. Now I call them charges, but if you ask me it sounds like they are the ones in charge, and Jim and Julie are at their beck and call. And the squirrels are so smart. They didn’t take the peanuts that had fed down through the feeder, they lifted the lid to make their own choice
It was so relaxing. The birds kept us entertained with their antics. They didn’t mind having us quite close to them, in fact the only thing that seemed to make them fly off very much was when another bird flew in to feed. As far as we were concerned, the must have thought we were similar to a tree, because while they didn’t try to land on us, they buzzed right by us so closely sometimes that it made us duck. Several times I wasn’t sure how they missed me. It was great fun.
There were so many of them, that you never ran out of tiny birds to watch. The area was alive with them. Hummingbirds are so unique. I don’t know of another bird quite like them. I could be wrong, of course. I’m not an expert, but I have never heard of any similar. Maybe that is why they hold us spellbound like they do. I find myself able to sit for a long time just watching them, and in my busy life, that is such a rarity that I am…well, grateful. My life is so busy that sometimes I don’t take enough time for myself…to slow down and regroup. There is just something about watching the hummingbirds vie for position that is interesting and yet relaxing at the same time. It was a day that I so enjoyed and I am so thankful for and definitely a day I look forward to experiencing again. Thanks Jim and Julie