Over the Thanksgiving weekend we decided to get out of town locally in Colorado for a type of stay-cation. One in which we could drive too but be out of our lop of tourists that descend into our little county each weekend and holiday week. We chose Pagosa Springs, to get some much needed soaking time, a little skiing in, and look at some schools along the way. Having traveled through the area each spring on my way to southwestern Colorado for the last number of years I have had the great fortune of seeing a pair of swans, what I believe to be Trumpeter Swans, living and nesting in a pond just off the highway. Usually I am traveling rather quickly through the area and don't have much time to stop for photos, but this time we were going to stay for a number of days so brought along my mid range (for me) zoom in case any opportunities popped up. Overall it was a time to relax and spend time with family so I didn't bring the whole kit along as I didn't expect to have much free, wander around, time.
When I began making photos many years ago I would go out at sunset and sunrise looking for interesting scenes mostly. I would have vague idea of what I was looking for but no set agenda, and oftentimes I would come back with very few "keepers". I was shooting almost exclusively Fuji Velvia slide film and was on a tight budget as a ski bum and restaurant worker so to shoot more than a roll of film at a time was unusual. The learning curve was quite steep. Later on I moved to digital with a D70 and a Dell computer and the world of ripping off frames as fast as I could with that body was exhillarating and very liberating from a creative viewpoint. I could now "++ck around and find out" as they say today. And with digital files all the info was there recorded, I didn't have to rely on my crappy short term memory or less than passing note taking capabilities. Plus I had the gift of a digital darkroom with photoshop, Which came with a cheap Macbook Pro that I'd occationally buy from a web developer friend who would pass it onto me when he upgraded. I was off and running. I'd sell a few prints and do the odd wedding for friends and family to pay for gear upgrades and travel expenses. A semi-hobby kind of thing.
After realizing that I didn't particularly like shooting weddings I decided to stop doing those. I learned along the say that if it didn't "do" it for me the amount of effort I would put into it wasn't satistfying personally. I decided to shoot photos of what I enjoyed, I didn't want to make it a job. Getting up at all hours of the day or night and putting up with and and all kinds of weather did do it for me and I continue to head in that direction to this day. But one thing I did notice is that when I focused on looking for a subject to shoot before I went out I had much more "success" which gave me much more enjoyment, a kind of self fulfilling prophecy so to speak. Oddly for me it's a very precarious balancing act though, as wild animals and scenes don't always show up in a timely manner. But the hunt is a big part of the fun. So what I've some to realize is that have an intention and loosely defined goal before I head out to make a photograph(s). And be open to the muse as Steven Pressfieled mentions in his book "The War of Art". By bringing my camera with this trip, and having the idea as loosely formed as it was, of possibly seeing the swans that I knew would be nearby, I was showing up. The seed was planted and fed, now to see if the muse would show herself. Our first few days I potted one swan but not two, and it was out in the middle of a large pond. Too far away for make anything interesting as far as an image goes. So be it I thought. A little soaking, some skiing, shopping, eating and relaxing took up our time. I would glance toward the pond each time we passed it as we were staying very close to it and Pagosa isn't very big, and for two days I didn't see the swan at all. Bummer, I thought, it must've flown away for the season as the pond was just starting to freeze over each night and looked to be locked up in ice for the winter season soon. The day after Thanksgiving we took a balloon flight across the street from the pond in which I had last seen the swan, and there he was! "Cool", I thought, "he's still around". Later that day as we were heading home,the kids were busy doing some homework and surfing the web for shopping ideas at the condo, and I saw the swan swimming around. I sat at the table eating my 4th turkey sammy of the day, and thought, "you know, might as well go out with the camera, it"ll probably be my last chance before we leave." I parked at the edge of the pond and put on the longest lense i brought with, my old 80-200mm, which for birds is usually not nearly long enough. I thought "why the hell didn't i bring anything longer!" but continued out to the pond anyway. The swan was out in the middle of the pond and the sun was gong down, and while the light was great on the far edge, the nearby hotel and trees were blocking any good light from falling near where he was heading. But oddly when i exited my truck he turned and headed my way! Come on, this can't be a thing I thought. Having been around animals for bit I've learned that it's best not to be too ecitied around them and to control my energy. So I calmly walked to the edge of the pond where the light and setting sun were shining. While I've known geese an swans to be somewhat curious, I've seldom known them to approach very closely and in the odd time when that happens they're usually coming in for an attack, so I was very cautious to say the least. I positioned myself near the edge and squatted down to present as small a sillouette as possible. Lo and behold that swan swam up within full frame distance to me, and I was able to remain calm, although I was ready to back away if it showed any aggression. I felt no such energy or saw any indication of it being hostile and as I ripped off frames, thinking to myself that it'll be great when I can afford a camera with a silent electronic shutter, my new friend began to feed on the bottom for about 20 minutes. Gradually it lost interest in me and my exploits and swam away in the direction of it's nest and the encounter was over, but it sure was exhilarating while it lasted. Just another one of the many times I've been reminded of the value of just showing up. Because you never know, and if you don't show, you never will.