Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Is it Worth It?

The modern digital photographer has thousands, if not tens of thousands of images stored on their hard drives. I'm one of the latter. Before adding another twenty or thirty photos to the vault I ask myself, is it worth it? Will I use this photo? The very idea of unpacking my camera bag, changing lenses, composing, exposing, and working the subject until I get the shot is sometimes enough to trigger a complacence so grand it can only be mistaken for arrogance. "Oh, another barred owl? I've got one of those."

It seems like such a simple task - pulling out a camera, pointing, and shooting, but laziness is a devout polygamist and married to any number of excuses. The light is wrong. I don't want to get my camera wet. It'll be gone by the time I'm ready to shoot. The camera will just be a burden to bring along. My brand of indolence tends to walk hand in hand with familiar places. Once I've made a substantial portfolio of a particular location, I become increasingly picky as to what I will shoot. This blatant hubris never seemed so clear to me until last week when a friend, Garl Harrold, called to report he found a juvenile southeastern five-lined skink and would hold on to it so I could take pictures. I stammered on the phone, trying to be polite while dropping subtle clues that he shouldn't have gone through the trouble for something so common as a skink. "No really, Garl, you shouldn't have gone through the trouble..."

When I came into work the next morning, a water bottle containing a small lizard was sitting on my desk with a note from Garl. It sat there for half the morning haunting me, whispering to me, now you owe it to him, Mac. As we all know, guilt is a formidable force. Even laziness, with its posse of vindications, is no match for a guilty conscience. With heavy steps I carried the skink down to the lab and the gears started to turn. Suddenly, I had an assignment. Placing it on a piece of porcelain I used a strobe to blow out the background and hold fast to color. During the ten minutes of trying to keep the wiggling reptile on the porcelain, the once burden became a challenge, and the common skink evolved into an other-worldly creature. So excited by the outcome, I immediately rushed home to upload the image onto my computer.

I owe it to Garl for rekindling my artistic wonderment of nature, which is the whole reason I started photography. Now, the first thought isn't "is it worth it?" Instead, it's, "will this be fun?"

A Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Eumeces inexpectatus) shot in various positions on porcelain 
and merged into one frame. 

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