The One that Got Away…
Much as I love photography, I feel that sometimes it can get in the way of just enjoying an experience simply for what it is. I know I tend to hide behind my camera sometimes, use it as an excuse to be somehow outside of whatever I am photographing, legitimately placing myself on the periphery, especially when I’m feeling insecure or emotionally vulnerable. I suppose I actively rely on its getting-in-the-way-ness at times to avoid having to deal with feeling so socially awkward.
Yet at other times I deliberately don’t take endless images, however delightful they may be to look at afterwards, instead prefering to fully engage and interact with the situation I’m in at the time – like when spending quality time with my five wonderful grandchildren. They’re young for such a short time, and I’d rather hold close the physical memories of chubby arms around my neck, sticky kisses given with love, and the feel of small trusting hands in mine than have nothing but visual images to remind me of those precious moments.
But occasionally I’ve been competely taken by surprise by an amazingly unexpected experience that has just taken my breath away, leaving me lost for words. My one and only encounter with an American Bald Eagle was one such occasion, and one I’ll never forget. For those who don’t know me, I’m a Brit, a Scots lass living in London with my American-born husband who comes from the swamplands of Louisiana’s Deep South. So when it comes to wild birds I’m far more used to sparrows and crows, wood pigeons and seagulls than eagles.
On one particular visit to the US we were in my father-in-law’s small aluminium motor-boat heading towards Lake Verret, just out for a ride, and being the only non-local in the group I sat up front with my camera. I’ve taken some beautiful photographs from the front of that boat, up and down the bayous in and around Pierre Part where my husband’s family live, and on that day on our way out to Lake Verret we passed a couple of guys on their way back who told us they’d seen a Bald Eagle out on the Lake, and to look out for it.
With excited anticipation I scanned the skies, camera poised at the ready. And when the moment came I watched in awe as the truly beautiful Bald Eagle soared above, almost in slow-motion, gliding along on a cushioned current of air, feathered fingers spread wide in a truly impressive wingspan. I watched in wonder, craning my neck so far backwards I almost lost my balance as it flew directly overhead, only tens of feet away from the boat, eagle-eyes searching for who knows what. It took one last long lingering look before flying away as quickly and silently as it had arrived.
Back in the boat we all looked at each other, eyes shining with big silly grins on our faces, knowing that we’d just witnessed something special. And it was only then I realised that my camera was still lying redundant in my lap, forgotten, unused. I’d just come closer to an American Bald Eagle in its natural habitat than I’d ever thought could be possible, I had my camera sitting in my hand, and I hadn’t even taken one single photograph of it…
Do I have any regrets? Umm… no, not then, and not now. Part of the awesomeness of the whole experience was down to the eagle feeling so close – it was right there in front of me (well, above me), breathing the same air, sharing the same space. And to be honest I think we’re so used to the zoom lenses of wildlife photographers providing us with extreme close-ups that any image I took would probably have looked sadly disappointing by comparison anyway.
So as I don’t actually have a Bald Eagle image to share, instead here’s one of me sitting in my usual perch on the front of the boat, one of the guys we met on the way who told us about the eagle, and a later picture of Lake Verret taken from the shore…
So am I the only budding photographer with a story of the one that got away, or has this kind of thing ever happened to other people too? 🙂