If you’ve ever tried photographing wildlife, you will understand what I mean when I say that unless your goal is to capture the animal as part of a larger scene, it’s pretty much a waste of time without a telephoto lens. Without one, animals usually scare off before you can get close enough to compose a decent shot. And that’s why I’ve felt sorely crippled photographically ever since my telephoto lens quit working two years ago.
I remember the moment distinctly. The sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico and we were standing at the end of a long rocky pier with the warm salt breeze in our faces. A pod of dolphins suddenly appeared a distance out, leaping and dancing in the last remnants of golden light sparkling across the waves. Thrilled, I lifted my camera for what I was sure would be an unusually rare and beautiful photograph—only to hear an unfamiliar clicking sound as I attempted in vain to zoom and bring the lens into focus. A camera repair shop later pronounced it irreparable.
Remembering that, I suppose it’s rather ironic that my replacement lens made it’s debut overlooking another view of sun-kissed waves. Only this was a pretty far cry from the Gulf of Mexico.
The car thermometer declared it to be eleven below zero as I drove down to the bridge near our house. Faint wisps of steam rose from the swathe of open water as the frigid air met the warmer temperatures of the moving river. A friend living up on one of the nearby riverbanks had called to tell me that the lone trumpeter swan they’d occasionally seen feeding in the open water was back. If I came right away, she thought I could get an easy shot of it from the clear vantage point of the bridge. I spotted it as I drove over the bridge, a lumpy huddle of white effectively camouflaged against it’s snowy perch, head tucked under it’s wing.
I peeked over at my new lens lying in the seat next to me, an early Valentine gift from my dear husband, trying to contain my excitement. I could hardly wait to see how it performed. I clicked the lens into place before I got out of the car, and checked my camera settings, trying to guess accurately. Past experience with swans has taught me to be ready to snap quickly; they tend to be pretty wary of humans. I didn’t think this one would be flying away (it seems that an injured wing prevented it from leaving with the rest of it’s group in the fall), but I still didn’t want it to go paddling off in alarm and leave the great lighting and position it was currently in.
My breath froze white as I stepped out of the car. I shut the car door gently and walked as quietly as I could towards the bridge, wishing the snow wouldn’t crunch quite so loudly beneath my boots.
A few minutes later, as the beautiful white bird lifted his head to eye me warily, I lifted my camera. The zoom slid out smooth as silk. The focus sharpened, crystal clear. I framed the portrait and pushed the shutter button.It felt like I had been given new eyes.
There is a beautiful prayer we sing sometimes at church. I found it running through my mind as I crunched around on the snowy bridge and riverbank, looking through world with stunningly clear and magnified vision:
“Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!”—Clara H. Scott
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)