June 06, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

LOST CAUSE - a cause that has lost all prospect of success (Merriam-Webster Online)

Trying to make the most of the natural activity and diversity of springtime in Connecticut, I try to get out frequently near my home in search of subjects to photograph. Sometimes I feel pressure to be as productive as possible during this short time of plenty. So after a busy week without much time for the outdoors, I was anxious to head out and find something to shoot. I set out on one of my favored routes in the afternoon, through the woods of Lyme and East Lyme, despite the dreary weather. After a few fruitless stops at some of the many land trust preserves and state forest areas on my route, I decided to pack it in, thinking it was a lost cause.

On my way home, I caught a glimpse of the familiar football shape of a hawk through the trees and hit the brakes. Fortunately, these roads are lightly traveled, and I backed up to see what kind of hawk it was.  A Broad-winged Hawk was hunting from a perch in a wooded swamp about 50 yards away, so I pulled off the road to see if I could get a picture.  The hawk cast a few curious glances my way as I inched my car back and forth, trying to find a clear view of it through the trees, but continued its hunt. While searching for a vantage point to photograph the too-distant hawk through the jumble of gray trees, shooting up into the dull gray sky I was thinking "I'm really getting desperate here".

After finally settling on a spot, training my long lens with teleconverter out the car window balanced on a jacket (I've never been able to justify spending so much on a specialized been bag for such purposes) the seconds had turned to minutes. Finding an exposure that I could shoot hand held and captured enough detail in the dark hawk while not completely blowing out the sky added more time. That the hawk was still there seemed a miracle, as I waited even longer for moments when would turn its head to the side or back toward me. Finally, a pick-up truck drove by, and the driver give me that "what the heck are you doing" look. By then I had taken more than 100 pictures and my thoughts echoed his look, "why am I wasting so much time on this picture, it's obviously a lost cause".

A week later, as I was catching up on editing and came across these raw pictures, I had similar sentiments and deleted most of them because they weren't sharp enough. I opened one of the keepers to see if I could do anything in the processing to transform the dull gray image and a glimmer of hope appeared. Photography is extremely subjective, and opinions will always vary about what makes a good photograph. I'm not sure whether it's because I had no hope for these pictures, or that the hints of color from the emerging leaves break up the gray linear composition, or that it shows the hawk in its habitat, doing what it does, but this turned into one of my favorite pictures from this spring. The popular trend in wildlife photography has been toward the sharp, clean close-ups with soft, out of focus background and no distracting elements. I like those kind of pictures but find they get boring pretty quickly. There is something rewarding about being able to organize the chaos that nature sometimes presents, and capture something a little less obvious that makes you look a little a little longer and closer at an image. It gives hope to all the lost causes out there.

BW HAWK 14-05-0974169BW HAWK 14-05-0974169EAST LYME, CT Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) hunting in wooded swamp.


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