Published in the Rains County Leader on April 9, 2019:
Photography is a favorite pastime with many members of my family, especially my sister-in-law, JoLynn. She’s very good with a camera, and in the pre-digital days, she filmed many memorable events including mine and David’s wedding. She has gifted many of us with beautiful scrapbooks, and she has become the unofficial family historian.
Since the advent of digital imagery, JoLynn has spent countless hours scanning and cataloging photographs which she can access on request – and I have made a number of requests. She continues to snap photos and make scrapbooks, making use of new technology to create hardback coffee table books of family reunions and trips, special occasions like landmark birthdays and anniversaries, and the lives of her three sons and eight grandchildren.
A couple of weeks ago, she posted on Facebook that she had recently become too dependent on the camera in her phone. In order encourage herself to make use of her more sophisticated equipment, she issued an April Photo Challenge to her family and any friends who wanted to participate. She posted a list of thirty topics, one for each day of the month. The idea is simple – post a picture each day that relates to that day’s subject – no pressure, no prizes, just fun.
There was a time when I walked around with a camera bag on my shoulder a good bit of the time. But when I began to feel like I was missing a lot of life by looking at it through a camera lens – and when I realized I wasn’t that good at it anyway – I slowed way down. Like most people with a cell phone, I still snap pictures now and then, mainly of Kitty and David, but I’m not at all serious about the hobby. Still, my interest was piqued by the challenge, especially when I remembered a conversation I had with my mentee, the young lady I have been seeing for the last five years.
During one of our weekly visits, we were talking about the survey she had filled out about classes she was interested in taking in high school. I asked what classes she would want to teach if she was a teacher, and her choices were art and photography. I knew about the art, but other than her selfies on Instagram, I wasn’t aware of her interest in photography. “Oh,” she said, “I take really good pictures.” She pulled out her phone and proceeded to show me some of her work. She’s right – she takes really good pictures.
So, when JoLynn issued her challenge, I extended it to Ms. M (Mentee), and she accepted. I told her that I would do it with her, but I wondered how this was going to work out. On the last day of March, I sent her a text to remind her that the Challenge began the next day. I had given her a list of the topics, but I reminded her of the first one and offered a few suggestions of pictures she might take. She informed me that she already knew what she was going to do, and since then, I’ve been running to keep up.
The hardest day so far was Wednesday, April 3, when the prompt was “A Bird.” Normally, there are birds all around our place, but once I pulled out the trusty IPhone, they all disappeared. I went across the street to hang out around Connie’s bird feeders, but all the birds must have been on a diet. I put on my rubber boots and tramped around the back of our property, following birdsong as quietly as possible. But the little critters kept moving further away before I could get a good shot lined up. I finally got a picture of a high-flying buzzard. It was just a black speck against a white cloud, but it was a bird and I was losing the light.
I headed toward the house, and David came out and walked back with me. He asked how it went, and I showed him the buzzard. Then, he pointed out that we have a big bird sitting in our backyard. I snapped a picture of our 40-foot motor home – an American Eagle – and posted it along with my buzzard. I hadn’t heard from Ms. M, so I assumed she had either lost interest or had not found a suitable subject. Neither was the case. As David and I were watching TV later that evening, she sent me a picture of a blue canary sitting on a branch with another one faintly visible in the background. It seems she had gone to PetCo.
I think I’ve mentioned more than once that my neighbor, Connie, is a semi-retired professional photographer. She often regales me with tales of photo shoots that didn’t go as expected but, with some outside-the-box thinking and a little ingenuity, the results were spectacular. I guess the moral of the story, both from Connie and from Ms. M, is that a successful photographer will do whatever it takes to get the picture.
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