Archive for August, 2015

The Art of Zen Wildlife Photography

I don’t have a photo to post for my blog. Not one that any of you can see at any rate. The picture is forever seen in my mind’s eye and there it sits until the last breath I take. What I would call a Zen Photo. If I am lucky, my faculties will sustain me to that last breath and my encounters with wildlife that were left forever unrecorded by my camera will linger and entertain me as the lights of this life go out. With even more luck, that last breath will be some long time from now and I will have ample opportunities to see amazing things on those days that for one reason or the other, I have been traveling in nature without my camera.

I don’t regret the images not seen on my laptop screen due to the fact, either that the animal was out of range, the lighting was wrong, it caught me by surprise (this happens more often than not) and I didn’t have the speed at hand to get the camera set and ready to capture the encounters. Or simply, as with the past weekend not bringing the darn thing with me at all. This was when the resident pod of orca put on a frolicking show near the entrance of Active Pass on the Georgia Strait side of Galiano Island as I rode the ferry back from Vancouver. They must have know there were tourists on board because the pod pulled out all the typical stops for a whale show that one might see if unfortunate enough to pay big buck to see captive whales doing their best to entertain us in small tanks. The pod came close to the ferry and began leaping high out of the water. Breaching, spy hopping (a vertical rise from the water like a submarine’s periscope) and both tail and flipper slapping and splashing. All this was being done as the sun was low and casting glittering sparkles on the water.

My seat on the ferry was hot, I had picked the wrong side of the boat to sit and in my sudden tired state could not find the will to move to the port side and out of the direct sun. I sat, sweating, reading my book and half-ease dropping on the three young women seated in front of me. I am old enough to know and recognize that these three thought they were cooler and cool, alternative to an extreme and sadly, that look had been done before. Nonetheless, they prattled on, piercings and attitudes glinting in the sunshine as each made passive aggressive commentary in response to what ever one of the others had said. This went on for some time, to the point of becoming annoying. I had found inner strength to move to the other side where I would be free of the uber cool and find some shade.

The announcement came over the loudspeaker that we were in good luck as there was a large pod of orca dead ahead. I gathered my stuff, put away my book and spilled my coffee on my last clean shirt in a hurry to get outside to the deck railing to watch the show. As I got up I heard the lead girl speak. “I have seen whales before, nothing new here.” and so they stayed. Her two companions fixed in their seats under the weight of peer pressure. I shook my head and ran outside to find my joy.

I did, and had I looked back into the glare of the window opposite where the girls sat, I would have seen them all, face down, scrolling through all too important Facebook junk. Whales, shmailes. I buried the sadness I felt for them, those poor too cool for words soulless creatures. I instead stood, bag over my shoulder clutching the un-spilled remainder of my cup of coffee watching in lovely awe the twelve or more young orca at play. I cast an eye to my right and found a woman, maybe somewhat older than I but not by much standing watching, tears running down her cheek. I hesitated to interrupt the rapture but made a small comment about the show at hand. She had never seen anything wild, and so close. I was stifling my own usual emotional response to encounters of the like. I never bore or tire of them. I choke up and smile so hard my face hurts for an hour afterwards at seeing a bear, or wolf or so many whales from the seat of my kayak. I mentioned an encounter I had in Johnstone Strait a few years back. The woman gave some interest but I knew I was intruding and fell silent. Her eyes closed, the sun bathing her face and dried tears. It takes time to fully develop a Zen photo and that was exactly what she was doing.


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