Thursday, February 24, 2011


In Relentless Pursuit!

Thinking back from this juncture in middle-age, it is impossible to remember a time when I could snap a camera shutter without experiencing a rush of joy and the tingling anticipation of finally seeing the image that was captured with that click. In these digital days, we are able to press the shutter button and then experience immediate gratification, as the image is presented to us on the camera’s LCD screen, and then on our computer’s beautiful monitor. But if we’ve lost the sting of anticipation, our mission has now become a relentless and endless pursuit: Capture the perfect image, no matter what it takes!

And sometimes it takes more than we expected. Over the years, I’ve exchanged the “misadventures of intrepid pursuit” with my fellow photographers, and the stories never fail to have us wiping the tears of laughter from our eyes. So with this new twist on the “Silver Lining” theme, I’m inviting all photographers – or anyone with an amusing anecdote of Relentless Pursuit – to send me your story, and if it’s the right sort of story (if it elicits empathetic chuckles or tugs on my heartstrings), I’ll post it on this blog. I’ll add photos that I think enhance the theme, and also include your photos with the story, if you send them. Before I publish the story, I’ll send it back to you for your approval or final edits.

To get this new theme off the ground, I offer this story of my own—one of my favorites: I call it, “Faces in the Sycamore.”

House on the Hill

Our house sits at the top of a considerable hill,  strewn with a variety of nearly 100 magnificent trees, some of which tower majestically above a natural pond at the bottom of the hill.  Four sprawling London Plane Sycamore trees are placed near the pond and as gorgeous as they are, they create huge messes during every season—fallen branches in winter, ubiquitous seed pods in Spring, large hunks of stripped bark in the Summer, and a plethora of spiny sycamore “balls” in the autumn, along with the myriad brown crunchy dead leaves.  But gorgeous they are, despite the high maintenance that they require. With strong, graceful branches stretching out in all directions from their hefty trunks, and the textured, dappled bark covering the strangely bumpy wood, they are fascinating creations of Mother Nature.

Faces in the Sycamore
It was perhaps ten years ago, when I stood, camera in hand before one of the sycamores near the pond, and discovered that there were faces and whole people “growing” on that tree. The more I stared, the more figures I could see, popping out at me from every direction. It was amazing! Stories about how each figure become "imbedded" in the tree began forming in my impressionable mind and I was losing touch with my other surroundings, as you will learn.

Soon I discovered that if I stood back a bit, the figures “in the tree” would pop even more, so with my eye to the viewfinder, I inched back, little by little, until the perfect view appeared to me. Just one more little step backward and. . .

Suddenly I had run out of pavement and was falling backward, down about four feet, onto the debris strewn stony spillway behind the pond’s dam!

Spillway: Whence I fell
My first thought as I came to my senses was “Whew!” for my camera had luckily landed safely on my nicely-padded stomach.  Miracles do happen!   My second thought was, “I haven’t cracked my skull open,” and my third thought was more ominous:  “I wonder if any of the neighbors witnessed this bit of unintentional slapstick.”  So, slowly, I pulled myself together and crept gingerly to my feet.  Standing in the spillway, with just my eyes peering above the spillway wall, I panned the neighborhood and concluded that my silly blunder had most likely gone unobserved.  (If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it make a noise?)

And then I noticed a slight throbbing in my right index finger, which had not been as lucky as my camera and somehow had landed under my butt at the bottom of the spillway. Very very slowly and fearfully, I directed my gaze to my now aching finger. My stomach began to turn as I took in what had happened: The finger was bent at the middle joint—but in the wrong direction. It was badly dislocated. The queasiness in my stomach turned to dizziness, and I sat down on the spillway floor to regain my composure. But wait! Even with my finger painfully pointing back at me in the wrong direction, my first priority was go have a "gimp" at the newest shots.   Were those faces captured by my lens?

The author, among London Plains Sycamores at Sayen Gardens, Hamilton, New Jersey
Inspired?  I'd love to post your stories here.  If it catches on, we may have a book down the road.  Send me your tales, along with a few photos, if you have them.  I'll add some if I see fit, and send you the draft for final edits and your approval.  I'm excited...I KNOW there are some GREAT stories out there.  Let's do it!

All photographs, unless otherwise
indicated are by Michelle Alton

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Joe DiGilio said...

I made a comment, where is it? I may have done something wrong. My knowledge of such things is lacking to be sure. This is a test.

Joe DiGilio said...

Confirmed...I was doing something wrong.
Michelle, do you realize how blessed you are to be able to see & feel what you do when you look at something as innocuous as the trunk of a tree? I think this is a gift given to artists. Now, in the encyclopedia of my mind, you & your camera stand next to the Sycamore tree.