Saturday, February 28, 2009
For weeks now the brown creepers and I have been playing games—part hide-and-seek, part tag—wherein I attempt to take a good photo of these little birds clambering about on my dooryard box elder tree, and the resultant photos keep turning out, at best, mediocre, and more usually, plain awful. I am, to put it mildly, a tad frustrated. The blame, however, can be solidly laid on two main factors—subject uncooperativeness and photographer impatience. Brown creepers are small, goldfinch-sized tree-climbers, slim in profile, sport a stiff tail for better balance and propping, with a long, slightly down-curved beak they use to probe the nooks and crevices in a tree’s bark. Those of you familiar with creepers know their habit of starting near a tree’s base and spiraling upward as they search for grubs and insects. If you’re not so well acquainted you might assume—wrongly—that this upward namesake creeping is slow and orderly. Nothing, I assure you, could be further from the truth! Creepers work a tree in a spastic, herky-jerky manner—up, stop, sideways, stop, twitch, up-no-down, stop, up, sideways, sideways, up. Never stopping in place for more than a second—and even then their head is twisting, turning, bobbing, up, down, this way and that—a continuing kinetic series of sudden shifts that makes it nearly impossible to track them through a viewfinder, and is guaranteed to have you grinding your teeth after half an hour. It doesn’t help, of course, that brown creepers look like brown tree bark (except for their whitish undersides) and so, should they actually pause for longer than the usual millisecond, chances are at least 50-50 you’ll overtrack through the viewfinder and miss the only photo opt you’re likely to get during the session. Which, I suppose, brings us to impatience. Given time I’m sure I could eventually manage a few decent portraits. Had I known this now obvious necessity, I would have begun my creeper photography career soon after graduation. As it stands now, however, I doubt I have sufficient lifespan remaining to accomplish the task. I’m not giving up, mind you; just putting these interim images out there for anyone to see. I’ll keep taking my daily 150 or so brown creeper shots, downloading, trash-canning 149, putting the remaining one in a folder, shooting another 150, and another, and so on until I have a dozen possibles to scrutinize closer, at which point I’ll throw all but one of those in the trash can. Now, if you’ll excuse me…I must go and take my blood pressure medication. I’ve again been trying to photograph brown creepers.