In looking back at this year, time has flown by faster than ever when the days really should have passed by very slowly and painfully. Perhaps what made the time pass so quickly, especially this summer, was burying my head in an all-consuming conservation photography project.
This project involved several trips up to Damascus, Maryland to get images of insect life in the very healthy North Patuxent River. When I head up to this stream, I’m on a mission. I’ve got my shot list. I’ve got my equipment list. I carefully time my drive to get the perfect daylight. Upon arrival, I don my waders, load up with equipment, and off to the stream I go. The bugs better be lined up and ready for their photo shoot because I’m on a mission.
Focused as always on my last trip to the stream, as I was unloading my equipment at the side of the stream I could hear a group having a good time as they walked down the path towards the stream. Although seeing me in my waders and knee pads with all my camera equipment is likely an awkward sight, luckily I wasn’t yet in full geek mode yet.
The group gave me a courteous hello, and instead of the usual, “I bet that camera takes nice shots?” comment, they expressed a sincere interest in the subject of my images. I gave them my insects-are-a-great-indicator-of-stream-biodiversity elevator speech, and when they didn’t go running away at the sound of the word “biodiversity,” I thought they might be a candidate for People on the River. Their names were Rebecca, Greg and Jessica, and they had been out for a hike in Patuxent River State Park. This spot turned out to be a convenient location the three of them to get together.
Again I was regretting the lack of preparation with a proper set of interview questions, I explained to them my People on the River project and did my best:
Me: Of all the parks and scenic locations where they could have met, why Patuxent River State Park?
Rebecca, Greg and Jessica: This is really the only place where we could get together and get away from all the concerns. Here we don’t have to worry about being around other people and the potential for contracting COVID-19. You don’t even have to think about it out here and it really makes you appreciate a place like this.
Even more, we get to see things here that we don’t normally see. It puts things in a different perspective.
Out came a cell phone with an image of a caterpillar. I feigned a guess at a tiger moth, but I was more taken by the quality cell phone image that could win the annual Xerces Society photo contest! They explained where they saw the caterpillar on the underside of a leaf and the beautiful colors of the insect. Oh by the way, in the eastern US, if you want to impress somebody when they ask what kind of caterpillar you are seeing, just say tiger moth. There are about 11,000 species of tiger moths – it’s the sparrow of the caterpillar species.
In meeting Rebecca, Greg and Jessica, they knew how to not to lose perspective during the pandemic. They were enthusiastic about being out in the woods, discovering interesting creatures and plants, and they really enjoyed being together. The whole experience of meeting the group was very uplifting for me. In fact, I’ll have to admit, their taking my mind of the photo project mission for a few minutes resulted in some of the best images I took for the project. I’ll have to remember that – less mission, more perspective.