The Things That Move

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

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
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
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
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 photographers. Photo by Tim Graves
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
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
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.

Respect the Rattle

Photo by Tim Graves
Call it a transplanted midwesterner’s romance with the frontier or a foolhardy amateur photographer’s dream. Either way, today was my lucky day. Photo by Tim Graves

I confess I have been looking forward to meeting a rattlesnake since moving to the west three years ago. Call it a transplanted midwesterner’s romance with the frontier or a foolhardy amateur photographer’s dream. Either way, today was my lucky day.

On our weekly sabbath hike, my wife and I encountered a plump rattler along Oregon’s Deschutes River.  I powered up my camera while keeping a safe distance. I briefly debated whether to get on my belly in order to get an ophidian-eye view of my formidable friend.

The fears inherent in pre-adolescent stories of the evil rattlesnake (undoubtedly embellished) joined together with the tales of lifelong eastern Oregonians with a respect for the genus, to convince me that was unwise. Appreciating my zoom, I snapped multiple photos while kneeling on the ground.

Hiking away from my new rattler friend, I felt disappointment. I didn’t get the knockout shot I had imagined I’d get on my first encounter with a rattlesnake.

Sigh. On the other hand, I didn’t need a trip to the emergency room.

Purples, Greens, Oranges, & Hope

Purples, Greens, Oranges, & Hope

I last hiked along Oregon’s Deschutes River at the end of February. Though I saw early signs of spring, it took some optimism to do so.

If you squint you can imagine flowering vegetation in the Deschutes River Canyon in late February. Photo by Tim Graves
If you squint you can imagine flowering vegetation in the Deschutes River Canyon in late February. Photo by Tim Graves
The blue sky is reflected in the waters of the Deschutes River. Surrounded by hints of green along the canyon, spring is on the horizon in late February. Photo by Tim Graves
The blue sky is reflected in the waters of the Deschutes River. Surrounded by hints of green along the canyon, spring is on the horizon in late February. Photo by Tim Graves

My hike yesterday, however, required no faithful optimism to see the season of resurrection in the midst of nature. Trees budded, many blossomed. Wildflowers and green sprouts enclosed the brown dirt upon which I journeyed. It was easy to believe in Mother Nature’s resilience and the god of resurrections in early April.

Zoom in past the green hue of the Deschutes River canyon and you will find plant life abloom. Photo by Tim Graves
Zoom in past the green hue of the Deschutes River canyon and you will find plant life abloom. Photo by Tim Graves
Budding trees have turned to colorful blossoms in the Deschutes River canyon. Photo by Tim Graves
Budding trees have turned to colorful blossoms in the Deschutes River canyon. Photo by Tim Graves
Low lying vegetation emerges from its winter hibernation in the Deschutes River canyon. Photo by Tim Graves
Low lying vegetation emerges from its winter hibernation in the Deschutes River canyon. Photo by Tim Graves
Spiraling out of winter, vegetation is blooming in the Deschutes River canyon in early April. Photo by Tim Graves
Spiraling out of winter, vegetation is blooming in the Deschutes River canyon in early April. Photo by Tim Graves
Wildflowers line the middle trail at Deschutes River Recreation area. Photo by Tim Graves
Wildflowers line the middle trail at Deschutes River Recreation area. Photo by Tim Graves
Wildflowers line the middle trail at Deschutes River Recreation area. Photo by Tim Graves
Wildflowers line the middle trail at Deschutes River Recreation area. Photo by Tim Graves
The trees on islands and along side the Deschutes River leaf in joy in early April. Photo by Tim Graves
The trees on islands and along side the Deschutes River leaf in joy in early April. Photo by Tim Graves

The most notable contrast between my late February hike and this week was not the flowering trees or wildflowers, however. It was the non-plant wildlife that has emerged. I saw beetles and huge-whiskered squirrels. Crows were in flight, the bumblebees and yellow jackets diligently moved from flower to flower. Elusive Western Meadowlarks rustled leaves while the lizard darted across my path evading the camera lens. The Deschutes canyon is full of life emerging from winter hibernation. New life and creatures that have returned from southern migrations abound between the canyon walls.

A crow takes flight in the Deschutes River canyon in late April. Photo by Tim Graves
A crow takes flight in the Deschutes River canyon in early  April. Photo by Tim Graves
Crossing Paths
An emerging beetle crosses the hiker’s path in early April. Photo by Tim Graves
Bees are active in the Deschutes River canyon in early April. Photo by Tim Graves
Bees are active in the Deschutes River canyon in early April. Photo by Tim Graves

Like bird and beetle, people emerge from their warming enclosures in the spring. In my late February trek, I was alone on the dirt ribbons that parallel the river. This week I encountered several people walking the trail.

Though we forget when trees and foliage fade to browns and yellows, spring comes reliably in the northern hemisphere.  In the frozen precipitation and the browns and pale yellows of winter our moods drive us to feel that the darkness of the present will be endless. We fumble through February and early March convinced that we are alone in our winter wandering and seclusion.

But the God of resurrections and seasons never abandons even when we distance ourself from divine love. The Divine within all and between all of creation, loves and cares as deeply and as fully in the grey days as in the midst of blossoms. Like nature and Jesus in the Christian narrative of faith, we are resurrected from times of distress, anxiety,  death, and fears to a world clothed in purples, greens, oranges, and hope.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life . . . Consider the ravens: they neither plant nor harvest, they have no silo or barn, yet God feeds them. You are worth so much more than birds!  Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? If you can’t do such a small thing, why worry about the rest? Notice how the lilies grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, how much more will God do for you, you people of weak faith!  Luke 12:22a, 24-31 CEB (Read in context.)