It was Friday. I had not held my camera for weeks and desperately needed something to lift my spirits. A fog had set over us, one that felt like it had always been there but today it was revealing itself. With little purpose I packed my car with every lens and camera that I had and drove off into the woods. I normally have some intent when I go out shooting and know exactly what equipment to bring. Today I just packed it all in hopes that inspiration or desire would fall upon me while I was out.
Maybe I could get an ethereal foggy landscape, I would just walk through the woods and stumble upon the perfect scene. It didn’t happen. All I could see was grey. Melted muddy snow and sunlight blocked by a displaced cloud. I had not been out walking in a long time so I persisted, still hoping for a muse. A male cardinal caught my eye as he flew by against the grey dormant bark.
Wildlife, this could make for a fun afternoon. There is no shortage of cardinals in the wildlife area. Fields of sunflower and milo are planted to sustain the birds over the winter. The fields are intended for game birds that will be hunted, but several other species take advantage of the buffet. I pulled out my 70-200 2.8 lens. It has a nice zoom and a large aperture which makes for some “fast glass”. It is however lacking the upper end vibration reduction feature that is needed for wildlife and athletes. I opted out of this feature finding that most of my clients are not runny away from me.
The cardinals seemed to enjoy a specific patch of trees with cover from the ground up. I set my lens to manual focus to avoid the confusion of focusing on a nearby branch. I felt a little like Elmer Fudd, quietly stalking. It didn’t take long for me to realize that wildlife photography is not for me. Those little flyers seem to know the exact range of my lens and made every effort to be just outside of it. For every step I took they would fly just at the moment of focus. I tried the sit and wait method and knew I didn’t have the patience to stick it out.
At this point I was convinced that just outside the frame of every National Geographic image with some fabulous creature, is a big bowl of food. I could just see the bucket of KFC calling the lions out from the savannah and the market fish dangling from trees to lure in the hawks. I spent 45 minutes that afternoon chasing 2 male cardinals for an image. I ended up with 2 or 3 that were fair.
With nothing in my camera to be excited about and the perfect landscape eluding me I decided to pack it in. With snow inside my boots from walking through drifts and frozen fingers I turned to the car in defeat. As I looked down to find my path I saw the most vibrant yellow fruit holding on with might. I am not sure what it was, but it resembled a cherry tomato. How it had survived the weeks of ice and snow that we recently received amazed me. Such a bright pop of color in all of the grey, just like my shy cardinal. I snapped a few shots and continued to pack up and leave. I decided to take a drive just to enjoy the view from the comfort of my warm car.
Deep into the wildlife area is a creek and just on the edge was tree covered in yellow and green vines. It seriously looked like something out of a Disney fairy tale. January in Missouri gives little color and even less foliage. It was like someone forgot to tell this particular vine what day it was, or maybe he had just returned from some tropical vacation with a tan in the middle of winter. All of the adjacent trees and vines rustled in envy.
It was such a nice surprise that I got out of my warm car to snap a few shots. While I was out I found some bright mustard colored lichen on the side of a tree. The grey haze seemed to lift for me and the landscape began to reveal all of the colors it had to offer. Colors that had always been there, I just couldn’t see them before.