Being old does not have a lot of plusses. The body slows down, memory falters, simple tasks now take effort, day time naps happen without realizing it, and on and on. Add having neurological issues makes just doing daily chores or getting out a challenge.
With all that happening to me, I never thought that I would ever again be able to photograph wildlife or birds handheld with a big lens. Nevertheless, I kept trying and yesterday, success.
Two days ago April and I were at Moraine View State Park, just east of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, driving around and enjoying viewing the start of the fall colors. It was then that we spotted a couple of Great Blue Herons. The only camera equipment we had on hand was a Nikkor Zf with a 28mm lens. We discussed how at one time I would always have on hand a big lens for such an event. I felt sad thinking about the past few years when I couldn’t keep the lens stable while taking photos, even with vibration reduction in the highest setting.
I found the conversation to be depressing. I pretty much gave up on ever doing such photography again. I knew usually when photographing wildlife, one rarely had the chance to capture such photos with a tripod. Oh, I could spend anywhere from seven thousand to sixteen thousand dollars on a super telephoto lens. Then mount it and the camera on a tripod. Hide in some bushes and wait for hours, hoping that some animal or bird would show up at my location and then take some shots. But knowing those opportunities for me would be rare, I would rather spend that money on vacations and other fun stuff for April.
So, after our brief drive around the park, I went home and pouted for the rest of the day. The next morning I went to the closet and stared at my Nikon D500 with the Nikkor 200mm to 500mm attached. The last time I had tried to use that camera with that lens was over two months ago. That day, I sat on the ground in our backyard trying to focus on birds. Even with an uno pod and a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second, my images were soft, out of focus. I walked away from that shooting experience resigned that part of my life was over. Since then I have not touched the camera with that lens. I knew it was time to sell both. I even made up a list of all the photo equipment that I could no longer use, with the idea to sell every item on the list.
Remembering all of that and staring at the camera and lens, I got mad. Not determined, just mad. I closed the closet door and walked away. It was at that moment I decided to try one last time.
So mid afternoon with camera and lens sitting on my lap, April and I drove back to the park. I wasn’t very optimistic about this little spur-of-the-moment photo outing. I figured I was a glutton for punishment. I was trying to do what I could no longer do. And of course, once we got out to the park, there would be no birds, especially the blue heron to photograph. When you are old, you can easily think negatively.
Once in the park, we quickly spotted a great blue heron standing in shallow water. April stopped the car. I unbuckled my seat belt, with camera and big lens in hand I got out of the car. When I closed the door, I was sure the heron would get spooked and fly away. Yep, negative thinking again. Instead, the heron seemed to be oblivious to me.
I sat down by the water’s edge crossed my legs. Tried to focus on the heron’s body and when I pressed the shutter button, the camera moved enough that the focusing ended up on the background trees. I remember muttering cuss words at this failure. I tried again and this time I nailed the focusing. Five quick bursts and all but one in focus. Then I tried to focus on the herons’ eyes. Five bursts and four photos correctly focused on the eyes and the lens was set to 500mm.
Yes, I was clumsy while taking the photos, yes at times my hands shook, and yes, the blue heron is one of the easiest birds to photograph in the wild. All that was and is true. It didn’t matter. I was doing something that I loved and I thought I could never accomplish again. While photographing that blue heron, I was determined, focused and getting the job accomplished. Afterwards, I was ecstatic to see I had nailed the sharpness. Seeing the photos, April gave me a high five.
Getting old is a hassle. And it is easy to give up and to be negative. It is also a joy to get in the right frame of mind and accomplish things that one never thinks is possible to do again. Mind over the aging body is a wonderful experience. Even at seventy-one with the right attitude, one can enjoy life to the fullest. I am proud of these two photos- CLG