Walking without a Camera

After ten years in the photography business, and decades before that as a casual and sometimes semi-professional photographer, I don’t leave the house without a camera. My daily purse/bag/pocketbook always contains a camera, and before I purchase them they must pass the camera test: will it fit? I occasionally use a smaller point-and-shoot, or the camera on my mobile, but usually I carry a Canon 7D with Canon 24 – 70 mm lens. This configuration is my go-to when I am not sure what subjects or type of photography I may find.

Through the years I advised beginning photographers and even more experienced to occasionally take a walk or hike without a camera, and just observe. I followed my own advice occasionally, but realized not lately.

During a recent trip we left for a morning hike, and I deliberately did not take my camera. My first observations of several chickadees calling out and posing on branches made me regret my decision, and I entertained the thought of going back for it. I calmly (maybe not so calmly) decided to continue. The second part of my advice to other photographers always included taking a notebook and pen to record the images they would take. This exercise strengthens observational skills and helps with composition variations.

My observations:

  • Four or five Carolina Chickadees flying in and out of two trees.
  • Further on, some warblers. The lighting and lack of a telephoto lens or binoculars made identification challenging. As I watched, I started catching the yellow flashes, the markings on the face and breast, and the general behavior.
  • A large Golden Silk Orb Weaver in a near perfect web, the golden thread shining nicely in the early light
  • The mist-like air near the tops of the trees from the very high humidity as the sun rose
  • Two Pileated Woodpeckers calling and flying back and forth, chasing a Red bellied Woodpecker from one of “their” trees.
  • Other campers out for an early morning stroll, most of them walking dogs

The results: it works, but I did not take the detailed notes I always encouraged my students to take. Obviously it is time for the teacher to start following her own advice again.

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