Walk Slowly, Stop Often

June 12, 2019

As I was out walking today, I started thinking about what advice I would give others who might be interested in going on picture walks of their own. The first thing that came to mind was to walk slowly and stop often. It’s what I do every time I’m out taking pictures and it feels very therapeutic—like an antidote to all the stress in the world today.

A beautiful Common Yellow-throat out in the meadow
When this brilliantly colored Bluebird flew past, I thought at first it was an Indigo Bunting!

By walking slowly, I have time to notice all the little things going on around me—a caterpillar climbing up a stem, a small butterfly perched on a flower, a hummingbird taking a break. When I walk slowly, I also try to walk as quietly as I can. If the path is covered in dry, noisy leaves, I look for a grassier edge where I might move more quietly. Walking slowly and quietly also means that I’ll be less likely to scare away the critters that I might like to photograph.

I came upon this chipmunk so quietly that he didn’t realize I was only a few feet away!
Red-spotted Purple Butterfly
Silver-spotted Skipper Butterfly
Great Blue Heron fishing in the mucky water

On any given picture walk, I stop dozens if not hundreds of times—to look around, to observe what’s going on around me, to take in my surroundings– all 360 degrees of it (including the sky above me!). Sometimes I find a place to sit for awhile. It’s amazing how much is happening around me that I am mostly unaware of when I’m on the move or thinking of other things.

Tiger Swallowtail
Spatterdock Darner Dragonfly (I think)

One of the ‘mantras’ running through my head when I’m out taking pictures is “Shoot the way your shadow goes!”  In other words, make sure the sun is behind me. I’m always looking for my shadow when I’m out taking pictures and I often choose which way to turn so that my shadow is in front of me, or at least pointing in the direction of the most favorable pictures.

Young Sandhill Crane
Sad-faced Box Turtle!

Perhaps because I’m relatively new to nature photography, I take an excessive number of pictures– hedging my bets in favor of  getting at least one good shot out of the bunch! With digital photography, there’s nothing to lose with this approach—other than the long hours one might spend sorting through and editing so many pictures. For the most part, though, I enjoy the process.

Twelve-spotted Dragonfly
Barn Swallow on a white bridge

The other thing I’ve learned along the way is to ‘assume nothing’. Just because a bird is small and brown, doesn’t mean it’s just another sparrow, or just because a bird is red, doesn’t mean it’s just another cardinal. If it IS a sparrow or a cardinal, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take a picture. Even though sparrows and cardinals are as common as ticks and I already have a million pictures of them, it’s all good practice– and you know what they say about practice!

Baby Goose
Eastern Bluebird with a mouthful of grubs and spiders (?)
Teasel in the waning sunlight

So, walk slowly, stop often– and take a lot of pictures!

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