Not Just Eagles, Either

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed around here, which in this case turns out to be a good, not a bad thing. I’ve been feeling that way for a awhile now, particularly when it comes to writing about the literature I’ve recently finished reading. I finished reading Joyce’s Ulysses and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and wanted to reflect on some ties I found in them, but was unable to find time to develop those ideas with all the other things that were going in my life. I finally set Joyce’s books out to be recycled but still feel I want to say something about them before discarding them.

Even more recently I spent five days shooting photographs, and with a modern digital camera that can create far too many pictures. I shot over a 1,000 shots the two days I spent at Seabeck. Worst of all, I liked far too many of the shots I took. Even after spend several days editing I’ve still got over 200 shots left to choose from. Too many of them seem too good to just casually discard. Sometimes I’ve spent over an hour merely deciding which shot of a sequence to keep.

Surprisingly, some of the hardest decisions have come from my shots of Great Blue Herons. If someone had told me that I could get excellent shots of Great Blue Herons I doubt I would have even gone since I have hard drives full of herons. Turns out, though, that I actually have more shots of herons than I do of eagles from the two days of shooting.

I haven’t taken the time go back and compare the new shots with my old shots, but I have the feeling these are some of the best Great Blue Heron shots I’ve ever taken, not something I will casually discard. I’m not sure if these are really the best of the shots I have, but I like these a lot.

I love the background in this shot; the reflections make the shot for me.

Great Blue Heron

I had nearly twenty shots of herons flying by right in front of me at eye level, so close that I could make out each feather, and though I never really decided which I liked best, this is one of my favorites.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

What flies has to land, and I have an equal number of shots of herons landing.

Great Blue Heron  Landing

And, of course, since the herons were there to fish, I have even more shots of them catching fish.

Great Blue Heron with Fish

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I left almost immediately after my trip to Seabeck for Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for another three days of shooting, ending up with another 1,000+ shots to edit.

I might have managed to dig myself out of this hole if the weather hadn’t turned so nice. After a long, wet winter I’m a sucker for sunny days, I find it impossible to sit inside looking at a computer screen when I could be bathing in sunshine.

Whenever I work on these photographs I’m living in the past, so it really doesn’t seem to me to make a huge difference whether they’re posted today or next week.

12 thoughts on “Not Just Eagles, Either

  1. And HD space is so inexpensive these days, you don’t really have to discard anything that you even remotely like. But yes, at some point it seems to be a bit absurd. To what purpose would we wish to preserve these images that few, if anyone, will ever see? I ask myself that nearly every day.

    It’s a question worth exploring I think, because it’s bound to take the act of photography in a different direction.

    Lots of things to think about. And that’s not a terribly bad problem to have either.

    • For me, the only value they have is the immediate one, to share some of my joy in nature. My daughter says she wants the right to them when I die, but I don’t think they have any real value, though the equipment should have.

      I have photographer friends who haven’t taken advantage of the internet to share their photographs and I usually urge them to do so because I can’t see the value of photographs if you don’t share them.

  2. You bring up both a practical and an existential question here, Loren, the latter of the type I suspect we’ll both be wrestling with right up till our last day. HD storage is certainly helping to ease the practical dilemma that confronted my wife this week as she tackled a big drawer bulging with photo prints—and prints upon prints—reflecting our family history. But the existential dilemma of having thousands upon thousands of photos, manuscripts, books, knickknacks, collections of whatever, in whatever form, all of it stuff, all of it ultimately destined for dust…hmmm….Makes me on one level want to emulate Thoreau and keep my rucksack very light. On another level, I’m so happy you’re sorting & keeping gobs of fotos for my potential future enjoyment, posterity and living lightly be damned!

    P.S. I’ve had “The Seven Storey Mountain” out of the shelf for a few weeks now, thinking of a re-read after 30+ years, so I hope you get to it and share some thoughts.

    • Whether digital or physical, if we’re going to do something with them they all take time to deal with, and in the end time seems to be life’s most important currency. I don’t feel like I want to waste any more of it than I have to.

  3. Nice to hear you’re being over-whelmed with spiritual riches. The third shot is stunning. It takes me far into pre-human history and makes time disappear. It reminds me of Loren Eiseley’s writing.
    I Jim

    • I’m probably going to have to put Eiseley’s writing on my to-read-list because I don’t remember much of what he had to say, though the name sounds familiar.

  4. Your photographs are astonishing. You have really reached a high level of expertise with your bird photography.

    As for what to keep or not, my advice is: if in doubt, keep, don’t throw it out. You never know when that photo may be exactly what you’re looking for.

    I managed to upload close to 40,000 photos to Flickr. Most are, well, not good. Probably really not good. But it doesn’t matter because they might be useful to someone somewhere for some reason.

    I made them freely available for people to use. They can’t be used commercially, but can be used in books and stories and web sites. They can also be used by people wanting samples for playing with photo editors; even as examples of what not to do when taking a photo.

    I’m eventually going to weed out the ones that _really_ are the pits, but in the meantime, it’s just a little bit of space on a disc.

    So, keep what you have. When you’re in the mood, or over the winter when it’s too wet to take photos, then you can have fun looking at the photos with a fresh eye.

    I also agree with you on sharing photos. Oh, people don’t have to give them away, like I am, but they can share like you do.

    Taking a photo is only half the task—a photo isn’t complete until it connects the photographer with his or her audience.

    • Maybe I should start a “Reject Folder” where I can go back after 6 months and look at them with a fresh eye.

      I have found some shots that I originally thought I liked a lot don’t have the same appeal a year or two later when I happen to go back to an older blog entry.

      • I think that’s a good idea.

        Unless you have space issues, keep the photos. There are going to be times when it’s too rainy to go out and that’s a great time to look through the pics.

What do you think?