posted on February 16, 2011 08:58 :: 2005 Views
I’ve gone on photo treks with a lot of different partners. The latest one is a real jerk.
Twice a day like clockwork we head out, walking along the bay, exploring the wooded areas, visiting the habitat park. And, like clockwork, I find something to shoot. Then, just as I’m about push that shutter button--she jerks my arm.
“Lady, can you PLEASE hold still? Wait just--one--minute...”
I suppose I shouldn’t be too impatient because Lady is, after all, a beagle. And as far as she’s concerned, those walks are for her. I figure I can accomplish two missions at once: get some photos, and get her some exercise. Serious photographers would probably roll their eyes and shake their heads--but they’ve never had to gaze into pleading beagle eyes as they put on their jackets to head out the door. Or maybe they have, but are better at saying no than I am.
Actually, it’s a very companionable time, and it’s possible that without her, I wouldn’t be stalking those photos quite so often. Over the months, I’ve developed a system. When I find a photo that takes some care, I stick the handle of the retractable leash between my knees, squeeze real tight so she doesn’t get away, then shoot quickly before she gets to the end of the lead, wait for the jerk when she does, then shoot again.
From a distance, with my knees locked in place, I undoubtedly look like someone who desperately needs to use the facilities. And, if I need to move my position at all, I look like a cripple who has the use of only the lower part of my legs. It doesn’t help that when Lady realizes what’s going on, she usually sits down in the long grass and waits--out of sight. No one can see the dog, no one can fathom what on earth is wrong with me. All they say is a misshapen, jerking creature with a camera pressed to her eye.
Too bad. This system is a far better one than stuffing the leash handle under my arm. There, any movement on Lady’s part is much more quickly translated into camera blur. I used to do that, though; I knew she’d keep jerking when she realized I wasn’t following her, so I’d time my shutter clicks between jerks. Now and then I’d get a useable photo.
Even the knee-clench method has its hazards, though. If I’m clenching and stooping and she’s jerking, all at the same time, it can make getting that close-up of a bee on a flower an extremely chancy operation. I’ve been unexpectedly eyeball to eyeball with a bee countless times, to both our alarmed surprise.
If I were smart, I’d be using a tripod for those flower close-ups, but there’s no way I could handle that AND a dog on a leash. So, at least when I’m with Lady, I make do without the tripod and thank goodness for modern cameras with image stabilization.
Monica Isley is a former newspaper reporter/columnist/photographer who once stalked the Lake Superior shoreline in northeastern Minnesota, camera in hand. She now lives in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., where the summers are warmer and the winters are milder than she's used to, but where photographic prey is just as available. Besides this column for JustNorth, she writes a blog called Monica's Pen at http://monicaspen.wordpress.com/