Every time you pick up a camera, you face a choice: What are you going to take a picture of? Me, I’ve developed (no pun intended) into a landscape photographer with leanings toward nature and astral photography.
Today the sunrise wasn’t much of one… but that doesn’t mean there was nothing to take pictures of. Heading across the bluff toward the eastern overlook, snow crunching under my ice cleats (which I appreciate more and more each day as I look at the sliding tracks of other boots in the snow), northwest wind starting to bite the left side of my face, I heard an eagle call. If you’ve ever heard the cry of the Bald Eagle, you understand why it is Hollywood uses the scream of the red-tailed hawk whenever it pictures a bird slowly wheeling across the sky over a desert. The eagles hang out on or near the bluff – it’s near open water, there are plenty of tall trees to nest in (and branches to hide among, if the crows and songbirds start getting aggressive), and there are nearby roads and train tracks to pick up the odd bit of roadkill if the fish are scarce or just too darned much work.
I paused on the walk to the overlook to try and catch a recording of their voices.
Then, on the way back, after the sunrise, I was treated to the most magnificent sight! A pair of eagles were chasing across the sky, dipping, soaring, wheeling, turning; what looked to be an adult, and a juvenile whose feathers were just starting to change color from mottled brown-and-cream to the striking adult plumage of dark body, white head and tail. The adult was leading, the juvenile copying its every move, as though one was the shadow of the other, moving in perfect tandem with the same degree of space between them at all times.
The flight reminded me of the Blue Angels, with their 18 inches of space, wingtip to canopy, when flying in formation.
And I faced a choice in the instant I saw them; should I grab for my camera (packed securely away in its cushioned pack on my back), or absorb and enjoy the show nature was putting on before my very eyes and oh-so-very-close? Because the birds were just on the other side of the cliff from me.
Now, if I had frantically tried to drop the gear and snatch my camera back out, my attention would have been pulled away and I would have missed the flight. But I might have snagged a shot of the juvenile after it separated from the adult and soared higher yet, virtually above my head. Or I might not have; you never can tell with birds, what’s going to spook them and what they’ll accept with equanimity. I suppose I could have pulled out the iPhone and recorded a video of the event… but that didn’t occur to me until after the fact. It wouldn’t have been much, but it would have been something.
I chose to be still; filling eyes, mind and heart with the sight of raptors in flight. And now I have the memory tucked safe away in my head of that glorious flight… but I can’t share it with anyone else, except descriptively.
So tomorrow, I’m walking back to the car wearing the camera instead of tucking it away.