Through My Lens
Our ability to see, and capacity for vision, is limited and defined by the physical constitution of our eyes. Complex organs of our bodies, made up of rods and cones, retinas, lenses, photoreceptors and corneas, eyes provide us — and animals — with vision, the ability to receive and process visual detail. Eyes detect light and convert it into electro-chemical impulses in the neurons of our brains. But the eyes are so much more. They are windows that allow others to peer inside our souls and which reveal emotions — happiness, sorrow, joy, fatigue, excitement!
When I am photographing and observing animals in the wild, I watch their body language. Mostly though, I look at and watch their eyes. The eyes of animals are true – they don’t lie, and you can learn so very much about the animals by carefully observing them. As William Shakespeare once stated, “The eyes are the window to your soul.”
“When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.” — Anthony Douglas Williams
A number of vertebrate species easily recognize the eyes of a human and “know” when they are being looked at. Highly social animals respond to this depending on the situation. Direct eye contact is often a behavior in establishing or challenging dominance. Face/eye recognition is built into the makeup of all vertebrate social species. Such ability and its resultant behavior is found in many fish, a number of reptiles (especially lizards), most birds and most mammals.
Do animals have emotions? I find it impossible to conceive that they do not. I would be vastly disappointed if they did not. Simply watch puppies as they scramble and play, mothers as they defend their young, males and they battle for dominance and the right to mate. There is no question in my mind that they are conscious beings, capable of experiencing play, rage, joy, fear, aggression, curiosity, love. And these feelings are expressed through their body language and … through their eyes … just as ours are.
I have found that when eyes connect, whether between people, between people and animals, and between animals, you have non-verbal soul-to-soul communication.
I see you seeing me seeing you. Words would be an intrusion on the experience.
A photographer friend gave me some of the best advice related to animal photography which I continuously use as a solid rule of thumb. He told me that if you can capture and focus on the eyes, then you have the shot. I have found this to be valid and true. If I can get a clear look into the animal’s soul through their eyes, then I have captured an image that I treasure and which evokes emotion.
So there ya go…the eyes have it!
“The next time you look into an animal’s eyes look deep and long. You will see their inner beauty and feel their living soul.” – Anthony Douglas Williams
A native North American species, Canada Geese migrate each spring to the Moreno Valley area of New Mexico to nest and rear their young. This family nested near Monte Verde Lake in Angel Fire. Their nests are typically situated on the ground, usually on a mound or other slightly elevated site, near water. I have encountered a nest situated in the nook of a roof, however. They prefer a spot from which they can have a fairly unobstructed view in many directions. The female selects the site and does much of nest construction. She adds down feathers and some body feathers beginning after the second egg is laid. She does all the incubation while her mate guards her and the nest.
Both parents diligently tend and raise their young, aggressively defending them, and they will quickly herd their little ones to the sanctuary of nearby water should danger approach. Parents are often seen leading their goslings in a line, usually with one adult at the front, and the other at the back.
It was an overcast and drizzly spring day as this family of seven grazed on tender grass shoots sprouting along the south shore. While tolerant of my camera lens for a while, the doting parents eventually grew annoyed and herded their young into the water when my persistent camera drew me too close for comfort. The fuzzy little goslings stuck quite close to their parents, paddling and bobbing away in a runaway “goose train” across the lake.
Thank you, Bonney MacDonald, for the following philosophic moment!
I am inspired by a reading recently shared among the Amazing Women of Zapata 2016, entitled “The Sow in the River” by Mary Clearman Blew. Reader’s Digest version synopsis, this reading was basically about trusting memories…that is, whether things we remember, and the way we remember them, are really the way we think they were. “As memory saves, discards, retrieves, fails to retrieve, its logic may well be analogous to the river’s inexorable search for the lowest ground. The trivial and the profound roll like leaves to the surface. Every ripple is suspect.” An interesting dilemma to distinguish between what are memories and what are dreams…and the discernment of an individual as to what really was the truth.
More often than not, we chose to remember things the way we want them to have been, or the way we perceived them to be, whether an event was a dream or whether it was indeed fact and real. The wonderful thing is, for our selfish reasons, we can and do indeed chose, and then retell stories the way they are stored in the rippled and tendrilled tunnels of our minds.
I love to figuratively describe photos as captured moments and memories. Funny thing is, sometimes when I’m taking a picture, and forming its image in my mind, I end up being surprised when I finally look at it on the big screen and realize the actual photo is different or includes more than the image I fixed in my mind. The actual image reveals things I neglected to notice with my eye through the lens….an insect hidden in the folds of a flower…scars on the face of the magnificent antlered buck….a reflection caught in the eye of the subject. Such surprising little things often transform the captured image into something more, or at least something different or more special, than was the original intention of the photographer. The photo becomes “indifferent to the emotional context I have framed it with.” I cannot deny what is proven to me to exist there in that photo….although it was not the way I had envisioned it through my lens or in my mind…or the way I had dreamed it. But the captured image does not permit me to deny what was actually there on the other end of my camera lens.
Thank goodness for photographs. They reveal undeniable truths we may have overlooked. They reveal secrets we may not have seen. They capture moments and dreams, whether the way we remember or envisioned them or not.
In honor of Valentines Day… I decided to write about passion and gettin’ down and dirty. That seems appropriate and trust me, not X-rated!
My dad used to tell me that a job worth doing is worth doing well. That means going the extra yard and putting in a little (or a lot) of effort. In photography, that means more than leaning out the window of your car to take a picture with your smartphone.
At times that translates into getting up before sunrise… suffering the cold, the heat, the wind….climbing a hill a little higher when your muscles already ache… trudging through muck and mire…..getting your feet wet… groveling in the dirt…to get just the right angle in order to refine that moment you have already captured in your imagination.
It means gettin’ down and dirty –which to me is just another description for passion. You have to LOVE the challenges of photography – and I do!
So….to get this shot of tiny bug tracks across the Great Sand Dunes National Park…..
You have to be willing to do this:
“Well…. you just shoulda been there!”
How many times have you tried to describe a particularly funny or WOW! moment, only to have the listener stare at you with a “deer-in-the-headlights” look, because they simply cannot grasp and mentally imagine what you are describing with mere words? In exasperation, I ultimately give up and say, “Well…you just shoulda been there….it was really cool!” (friend shrugs shoulders and walks away questioning my sanity and convinced of my lie telling capabilities….)
Photography captures moments in time that otherwise might not be remembered or adequately described. How much easier is it to show someone a photo, and then tell the story that goes with it? (friend looks at photo, face lights up, and friend listens!)
Example 1….Take my little deer friend below. So I’m telling my friend about this adorable little mule deer whose photo I took from above, and that I didn’t realize until I developed the photo that I captured her just at the exact moment she licked her nose, and how awesome that turned out (‘cuz I thought it was cool), and my friend is going …..yeah…big deal…so? But I can show them the photo and it evokes the “AWWWWWWWWWW!” emotional response ….which of course was what I was shooting for in my storytelling, but was obviously unsuccessful!
You gotta admit, she’s pretty cute…
Or, Example 2….the little fart who snuck up behind me as I was filling the bird feeder one morning, and after watching me hoist the feeder back up in the tree (via an elaborate pulley system designed by my husband to keep the feeder out of the reach of bears), shimmied lickity-split up the tree, ripped it from its mooring, shimmied back down the tree, and after spilling the contents all over our patio, proceeded to have a wonderful al fresco breakfast….at the expense of the hungry nuthatches and chickadees anxiously watching from nearby. While the bear story is interesting to the listener, the photo captures the moment of the thief in action and vividly retains it in my memory and tells the story all on its own. (plus proves it really happened!)
Besides being involved in a unique trade useful as a venue for artistic expression, to me, photography is also about capturing moments to share with others. So much better than saying “Well…you just shoulda been there!”
Now when I grow old and senile (not there yet), I can look back over my photos, and instead of boring my poor grandchildren and friends in the nursing home with stories ….I can just whip out that wonderful captured moment, sit back and smile, and wait for them to ask me questions about the adventures! Let the story telling begin!
Welcome to PS Ventures’ blog site. Honestly, I’m not good at this blogging thing, but am going to give it a shot. Via my blogs, I aspire to tell stories behind my photos, tales of adventures in photography, and at times may even become philosophical…but bear with me and enjoy the blogging trail!
— Page Steed