With the gear loaded in the trailer, it’s time for us to jump in. The small trailer looked like it was straining just to carry our gear let alone the additional weight of the two of us. Its tongue was attached to an ATV and a vision of the ATV flying over on top of us as we sat down inside passed through my mind. Safely seated, we started off with a lurch. The elderly lady at the controls had made some comment under her breathe. Breathing in the dust of the trail and fumes from the exhaust, we puttered down the path beside the river. The great trees lining its bank are still bare, spring has not sprung. The river water is brown as the winter runoff does its best to do its job of scouring away old growth. A half mile later we make a turn and come to a stop. “You’ll need to get out here and walk the rest of the way” the voice said over the putter of the engine. We get out and as I lean over to pull my camera bag from the trailer, the ATV lurches forward again, the trailer running over my foot. Mark & I just looked at each other and started laughing. We walk down to the blind where the trailer with our gear was now parked and waiting for us to unpack it. A few moments later we’re inside with our gear and the door soon closes on the box, not to open for 18hrs.
The windows of the blind are opened giving us small slits onto the world in front of us, the Platte River. “Nothing out there yet” Marks says. We sit on the carpeted earth, lean back against our sleeping bag rolls which are supported by the wall of the plywood blind. And without missing a beat, Mark and I go on with our conversation start earlier. 18:30hrs we hear the first call ringing down from the sky above, the conversation ceases for the next 2+ hours. Oh, there was the occasional, “there” or “dancing” or the most common, “Wow,” Beautiful,” or “Spectacular!” but otherwise the only sound was the incredibly romantic music floating in the windows of the blind. When the last drop of light from the day has been wrung out of the sky, we close the windows. Oh, the music was still playing outside, we just couldn’t see the choir anymore. With few words, we each took an opposite corner of the small blind, climb into our sleeping bags and call it a day. A grand day!
An hour before sunrise, the alarm of the iPhone goes off. Mark later asks, “Did you hear church bells this morning?” I answer, “That was my alarm.” In the dark we set up our gear and then ever so slowly we opened the windows of the blind in front of our lenses. The melody that played all night long (best music ever to sleep by) comes flooding in the windows at such a volume we couldn’t converse if we had to. And out of the window you could see the choir, over five thousand Sandhill Cranes roosting on the Platte! The shutters start clicking, their slamming metal can hardly be heard over the cranes. The slight cloud cover is enough to diffuse any great sunrise color but that’s OK, sunset was great and it extended our morning shooting. The birds though are farther away then normal. It doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t! The shots that can be made are special. I’m hard pressed to think of a better way to spend 18hrs of my life then in the box.
Sharon & I were incredibly touched by the warm and passionate reception of my Photoshop World presentations. I came directly from PSW to Nebraska (1hr stop at home) and I wondered how going from that emotional, energized high to the blind would make me feel. My presentations didn’t contain f/stops or shutter speeds, not technical actually and I barely mentioned even focal length and I don’t think I even said the word Nikon (after the Precon). All my presentations were centered around one concept, passion. Passion for photography, passion for the subject, passion for story telling, and passion for sharing with the viewer of the photograph. When folks came up after a presentation, stopped us in the halls, even at Midnight Madness or dinner to say I brought them to tears, we knew our message had gotten across. One question I was asked by a tearful lady I don’t think I have ever been asked before. “Where did you get all that passion?”
Our last morning on the Platte was a gamble. NE skuzzy clouds had been around, never really giving us great light or color but good enough. It was still special and when you truly, honestly have nothing to lose, well at the very least I go for it. So we stayed late and went till sunrise. So the sun-up found us standing on a bridge over the Platte staring east, look for the big, red fireball to rise. But it didn’t make an appearance. Rather, it was grayed out at first and then a few minutes later, a little light and color peeped out. We gambled and as far as we were concerned we won, it was the perfect end to a great week! Mark after the experience took the words right out of my mouth. “It was good for the soul!”
I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve been so fortunate that while photographically being “skunked” that I’ve walked away saying, “It was good for the soul!” So in answering that question about finding passion later on in my own mind, the answer might just be all those times I have been skunked but still enriched and rewarded in a much greater sense. Without knowing the low, and they come often in wildlife photography, how can you recognize, know or appreciate the high? It’s from that combination I think that my passion was born, its nourished and used in the creation of those images that touch others.
I Tweeted from the blind that I was very fortunate. A Tweet came back saying, “We are all very fortunate!” It’s that recognition that tells me that this person has too seen the lows and highs and knows the passion. Of course one has to put in the time behind the lens to experience the lows and highs. One has to have the wisdom to recognize both and of course listen to their heart to appreciate it all. And for me, this all comes together when I have time to be in my own mind, be in the presence of the thing I love (besides family), wildlife, and appreciate the times just to reflect – the “good for the soul!” If you wrap that all up along with a bunch of other of life’s experiences, then I can now answer that question of where I find that passion. It might help you in finding and expressing your passion knowing this. And if all else fails, give a try what I’ve come to really appreciate in this busy world, a little box time.