And at the top of the tree...
It would have been easy to stay in a somber mood. Featureless clouds dominated the solstice skies and the spooky sad Minor chords of Christmas hymns had long ornamented our musical selections. I was starting to morph into a Gregorian monk. In concert, their forces made a contemplative state of mind irresistible. Even the trusty waters of the Pine River locked up glacier tight with ice flows. How startling it was to see the river asleep again. Of course, those of us masquerading as adults know the water flows quietly underneath; that should be a good metaphor for something. Suzanne suggests it aptly describes the vacant look on my face. Not much movement on the surface but, she infers, I must be considering something below.
She further remarks, "Thank goodness we don't have to make a conscious effort to breathe like whales do."
Was Suz insinuating I would not make a very good whale? To absent minded perhaps?
I told her I had been contemplating the universe (dressing it a little grandly) and I suspected, whales do much the same thing when they're not occupied with their breathing.
"Do you think I would make a good whale?" I ask her.
"You'd soon get tired of eating krill."
Suzanne is right, I do crave variety and a plankton diet would grow weary, however; I do not
get tired of taking bird pictures. During holiday travels my trusty Canon T2i stacked with a 400mm L lens rode shotgun. It was high time to track down the raptors hanging in Michigan's canopy like so many flashy ornaments.
Red tail hawks stalk prey from the limbs of road side trees and make good subject choices under light starved, leaden skies. There are leafless holes to angle tight shots through and the edge of my half closed car window, buffered with a bean bag, makes for a superbly stable platform. I focus at five times magnification until the image is sharp and trigger a short burst of perhaps ten pictures - refocus - fire another series...Whisk, the cars go by. Jittery hands make for lousy pictures at these slow shutter speeds. Now we're having fun!
I had been playing hell with auto focus. I reasoned there was something wacko with my lens when I could not track birds in flight effectively. Sitting on my rump at Overlook Park I had no choice but to take matters into my own hands, tracking the diving gulls while manically twisting the lens into adjustment. It turned out in the end the T2i was not set to center spot focus, a setting I never adjust. Go figure.
Working perfectly, auto focus would more than likely have botched this shot preferring the foreground gulls as opposed to the young Bald eagle as it's point of reference. The eagle flew frustratingly close and stayed chronically unfocused before settling into a tree a few hundred yards away perching with two other eagles. I was definitely getting a work out.
The three wise men...
Should I press in close and disturb their calm? Good sense does not often prevail at moments like these and I was left debating my conscience while my busy hands eagerly readied the camera for close ups.
There would be a tiny window of perhaps 30 seconds to attempt a dozen pictures before the eagles spooked at the presence of a human being in their midst and flew off. I did not want to cross that line.
The adult bird was partially clear of branch clutter and holding nicely when I emerged underneath them. Click, click, click, and I backed out, the threesome holding steady.
Later in the evening our skies cleared and Suzanne and I partook of wine soaked star gazing. We looked out at the line formed by the three stars of Orion's belt and followed it to Sirius, the brightest of all stars, now resting on the Eastern horizon. A meteor streaked momentarily between them. An angel, no doubt, encouraging the Wise Men on their profound journey.
I share with you my wish, on that shooting star, for a safe and awe inspiring New Year. "May a thousand angels guide thy steps and keep thee on thy way."
Peace to all who read these words, Dave.