In Memory of Mr. Richard Burns, Extraordinary Mentor
I grab the new digital camera and head off on the walk. Mr. Burns, retired Forest Service Ranger, usually walks with me to the Catfish Farm, a private estate, to share the varied bird life and his knowledge of plants and other critters that live around Three Rivers. This day, though, I start out alone, to play with my new toy.
I follow a Domesticated Duck as it waddles toward a pond, taking pictures as we move along. Digital is so forgiving. If you do not like a shot the delete gets rid of it and you move on to the next one. It is great fun to experiment and since Mr. DD is so cooperative and used to having people close, I am able to learn about the camera.
I feel movement cross over my head and to the left. Since I have the camera up to my eye I turn and follow the sound. A Great Blue Heron lands into the pond. Click. Click. Click. No thought. I record the Heron’s movements as it hunts the fish in the pond.
Mr. Burns appears quietly behind me. I show him the new camera. He was a published photographer. Over the years he worked for the Forest Service in many places across the country, a camera always at hand. National Forest and wildlife magazines used his images. He is amazed at the idea of digital. Shoot, delete, shoot. After a while he reminds me I will run out of film if I am not careful and I remind him, there is no film. No stacks of unwanted prints to cull through and store. As much as he likes the idea of digital, there is no way he'd go out and by one of those things. He still carries the binoculars he has owned maybe 30 years. He even tried out the binoculars I bought at his insistence if I was serious about learning to identify birds, realizing how much binoculars have improved, but he wore his old pair until he died.
At home I put the series on the computer. One image jumps out at me, the very first one.
When others see the image I am told it is a winner. I feel embarrassed. After all, it was the first shot, in a new camera, done with no real knowledge, just point and shoot. But after some pushing, especially from Mr. Burns, I enter the image in the Tulare County Fair.
I am surprised twice: once when the Heron appeared, and again, when I win the red ribbon.
(When Mr. Burns saw the ribbon he beamed, and bragged about me to anyone who would listen on our walks together. Mr. Burns lead me on a discovery of an appreciation of how nature impinges on our lives here in Three Rivers. He is missed every day.)
A surprise captured
Reflection, an elegant
Morning at the pond.