I recently entered a small informal online photography contest with the above photo. The theme of the contest during December was “reflections.” My photo ended up taking third place. Last August I spent a solid hour photographing a single green heron in shallow Pine Lake in Shelby Farms. I rarely get such an opportunity, but for some reason the bird paid me no mind. It was one of those *almost* peak experiences.
The winning photo in the contest was a shot where a single drop of water on the leaf of a garden reflected the entire garden. The voting was very lopsided in favor of the winning entry, deservedly so. The creativity involved far surpassed anything anyone else entered. Can a drop of water reflect a whole scene? Yes it can! I saw it! Reflections are kind of metaphorical. Is there a tiny aspect of my life that reflects the larger whole? Perhaps photography itself does that.
“Reflections” was a wonderful contest theme, and the variety was amazing. Buildings, puddles, lakes, droplets, glass, marble, etc. were the reflecting surfaces. If I had the time I probably would have gone to Graceland to get a photo of the mirrored staircase leading down to the “Jungle Room”. It is slightly disorienting to negotiate. Be sure to visit Graceland if you ever get to Memphis!
Reflections are particularly timely in December, when we reflect back on our year, as we look forward to a new one—a new beginning. I used the contest theme to be reflective in my own life, particularly when it comes to photography. What is it that I want photography to do for my life? How does it add value? What direction do I want to go with photography? How does this hobby enhance my life? What have I done new or different with photography this year? What will I do with photography next year?
I realize that photography, for me, is not an end in itself. I recently read an article in our local newspaper about the person who consistently takes the best wildlife and bird photos in Memphis. I have always wondered how he got so many great shots. He obviously is extremely talented. It turns out he has a monster lens that he bought at an estate sale, and rarely leaves his truck to get photos of birds! They fly away if he opens the door. I could do that (if I had a lens that big, and a truck), but that wouldn’t really provide the need that I have to explore nature with my camera. Observing nature in a truck, to me, isn’t quite the same as observing it on foot. Monster lenses are heavy, and tripods can be unwieldy. Therefore, unless I go that route at some point, my wildlife photos will never be as consistently good and prolific as his. I can live with that. I do think of myself as being in competition with the birds, much like a hunter does. Hunters don’t generally hunt from trucks. I don’t feel that competitive with other photographers, though.
Photography in general causes me to be reflective, as every trip I take, whether it is to Japan, or to the Tennessee River, or to Shelby Farms comes back to me when I observe the photos. Also, when I observe a place where I have taken a special photo, that place is transformed in my mind when I see it again. Here are some other reflection photos I have taken over the past few years: