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The Things That Move

Eugene Fern's "What's He Been Up  to Now?" Photo from
Eugene Fern’s “What’s He Been Up to Now?” Photo from

Our eyes met. The spotted fawn looked at me; I looked at her. Reaching down to flip on my camera I silently chanted, “stay where you are, stay where you are.” She didn’t.

As I walk along the trail, I catch motion. Too fast for a snake and too small for a squirrel my eyes fail to focus before it is too late. As if to taunt me it happens multiple times. Sigh.

Far enough away, it didn’t seem to notice me. The coyote moved through the sage and grasses a few hundred feet below the trail. My camera beeped as it came on. I adjusted the zoom but my canine friend moved. He got away, too.

Catching the things that move on camera is full of near-misses, long-shots, and if-onlys. In my pursuit of the  things that move I often feel like Reginald, the elephant in a children’s picture book who falls into a deep hole in his pursuit of a butterfly. I confess that I give up sooner than Reginald. I also rarely need my father and mother to retrieve me from a deep hole.

Sometimes, I have unexpected successes that startle me as I download them from my camera. In late spring of this year, I captured an image of my very own butterfly at Dyer Wayside State Park near my home. It didn’t require a chase at all just a few steps.

A Butterfly on a lilac bush at Dyer Wayside Park between Condon and Mayville, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

Feeling empowered by my butterfly success, I chased some moths and dragonflies in Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Though I was satisfied with several of my moth photos, it was this dragonfly that surprised me when I downloaded it on my computer. Prior to the download, I feared my near-misses of stepping in water was all for naught.

I chased this moving thing through the marsh near the John Day River in Cottonwood Canyon State Park in June. Photo by Tim Graves

As chasing the things that move continued into the summer months, I had a few non-insect successes. By observing squirrel behavior, I noted to myself that they run and hide from my approach. They tend to scamper into a tree or protected space in the ground. It is their equivalent to the President’s “undisclosed location” except that I see where they go. By waiting a few minutes, camera focused, they will return to the opening to peer out to check on whether I’ve left or not. Patiently and quietly I waited for this squirrel to reappear and was rewarded with this image.

This squirrel returned to the opening of its bunker at Columbia Hills State Park, near The Dalles, Oregon. Photo by Tim Graves

Birds are particularly skittish of my approach. Their ability to fly also makes it difficult to follow or focus using my zoom. Too many of my photos of birds are blurs or of an empty sky or perch. Sometimes I am lucky. Most of the time I am not. I expected a blurry blob, particularly considering the distance from which I had to focus, when I downloaded this aviary image.

Surveying its vast domain along the John Day River in Cottonwood Canyon State Park, this bird of prey sits in its throne forty feet above mere mortals and amateur photographers. Photo by Tim Graves

Reptiles move at a pace that makes them difficult to shoot, however, I’ve discovered that a few varieties make assumptions about the quality of my vision. This one was convinced that I could not distinguish it against the rock upon which it remained perfectly still. In this angle, you can see that it is adept at blending into its surroundings.

The rocks of Deschutes State Park, near Biggs Junction, Oregon help this creature feel like a stealth jet. Photo by Tim Graves

Despite my aging eyes I spotted my camouflaged friend. Perhaps because I saw its movement before it became stationary. Perhaps because I could view the rock from more than one angle. (Remarkably its confidence at my poor visual acuity allowed me to photograph from only inches away.)

I recently encountered a friend who was convinced my vision could not make out his form on the rock. Photo by Tim Graves

No doubt the things that move will continue to do so. I am committed to honing my skills and walking less obtrusively through their homelands. I suspect both actions will lead to more successful images. Nonetheless, I expect to continue to download a few blurred images as I chase my metaphorical butterflies. Just pray I don’t fall into any really big holes in the process.

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