“Overcoming human alienation from nature requires a re-enchantment with the natural world, making it again a place of wonder.” James Gustave Speth
It was hot and sunny last Monday afternoon as I rode my bike into one of the Rabbit Road entrances to Taughannock creek. Once there, I heard the inner critic loudly allege that I had far more necessary things to do than spend hours photographing at the stream. Happily, a wiser voice responded arguing that the first order of business for a human being is to pay attention, which means a permanent willingness to lose oneself in the purest, unmediated manifestations of life.
The set of images immediately below were made in a very small and beautiful tributary to Taughannock creek that I love to visit. It was shady and bit cooler there, and as quiet and lively as it usually is. After a couple of hours I went back to the larger stream where the first thing I saw were three gulls soaring against the white and pearl gray folds of a huge cumulus cloud.
I was ready to go back home then, but the creek had meant to place other offerings on my path.
(Click on the first image to enter the full views.)
I first saw the blue heron at some distance. Bemoaning that my longest lens was a mere 100mm., I took a quick shot, sure that he would be gone as soon as my presence was noticed.
I moved closer to the bird as quietly as I could, and although I noticed certain small gestures of alarm (I had not gone unnoticed), he did not fly away. I did not dare move any further in, so I simply waited until I was lucky to capture the failed fishing maneuver I’ve assembled below.
Nothing much was happening after that, so I decided to inch closer thinking that, if fortunate enough, I might get a good picture of his departure. I left the tripod behind to reduce the volume and clatter of my presence, and to my amazement, he did not budge; not even when I came to stand right across from him on the other side of the stream. At that close distance he decided to show-off some fancy grooming moves.
Suddenly, I saw him stretch the full measure of his neck, and for a second tilt his head in rapt attention before thrusting it into the water while opening and batting his wings to steady himself.
For the best, almost cinematic view of the entire fishing and late-lunch operation, click on the first image and then click as rapidly as you can on the arrow appearing at the right of each image.
After capturing this series, I felt gratified and confident enough to move even closer. I walked some into the shallow water and made the images that you will see below; they are composites of three shots each. To my renewed amazement, the heron still decided to stay put. We were eye to eye now. Life, one with life.
At some point I noticed some noise behind me, a car arriving at the entrance, and perhaps some person(s) coming towards where this scene was unfolding, but I did not turn my head. I also sensed some alarm from the bird, but we both kept on doing what we were doing.
Kim was expecting me back at a certain time, so I really had to head back home. I turned toward the exit, and to my great surprise I saw a young man standing a few feet back. We both mumbled a greeting and our gratitude for the privilege of observing the heron at such close proximity. He stayed on, and I left. Before I rode back home, I dropped one of my business cards into his car. I had written on it that if he sent me an email, I would write back including some of the pictures I had made. That very night, I got a kind message from him:
“Very nice of you to drop your card! My name is Derek Clark. I work music and event productions (recently stages and equipment maneuvers at Grassroots). It was fantastic that the heron let us get so close! I have attached some of the shots that I got, as a courtesy.
Respectfully, D. C.”
This blog post is, therefore, dedicated to Derek Clark
Below is one of his photos, with me in it! It gives a clear sense of how close we had been to this beautiful and generous bird.