I once saw an interview with Stevie Ray Vaughn, the great guitarist, where he described how he play’s his guitar. He talked about how he get’s in the zone, opens up the channel and the music comes out and through him. It was the first time I had ever heard anyone publicly express the secret thoughts I have when I write.
Once in the zone, I recall the people and places, I feel the emotion of the recollection and out into the world, these little suitcase words get carried, filled with the feelings, thoughts and memories. All this waiting to get unpacked by the reader; bewildered by how they travel along with me and feel what I felt.
Well, this weekend I wondered what it would be like to open the channel as I shot the images. What would it be like to get out-of-the-way and let the essence of the image portrayed or the motion captured be packaged up and transmitted to the viewer, waiting for them to unload it and see what I saw?
On a visit to one of the local animal parks in the area, I found myself playing the camera like SRV. Squeezing it, spinning its dials, twisting the views to the limits of their exposure and documenting something way more than ordinary. It all started with this woman on the boat. A little cruiser we took up the creek to the park.
Something about the light under the swamp trees in the middle of the day and the deep crevices carved into her face. I played the introduction to my photo song and let the light and movement come out through me.
As the boat sped up toward our destination and while everyone else on the little skiff was searching the trees for birds and the creek coast for turtles, I noticed the sun skipping across the water like smooth shiny rocks leaving trails of light. I aimed the camera down and let another melody come out.
It felt a little like disco beats as the boat danced on the water in time and the sunlight streaked across the tops of the wet with high-notes. The heavy water beneath kept the base beat and the reflections of flowers, blooms and sky bursts between the trees played the rhythm. In awe I captured the moments of motion and light.
The boat docked and we all proceeded onto the jungle trails. I was no longer there. Just the rock star on stage, eyes closed, strumming the camera. Soaking wet from the heat I prepared my next song. Finger tips pushing out the chords on the aperture opening while I strummed the shutter.
A couple of otters ran up on the grass and then back to the water. They looked like long hairy dachshund slinky pups bending and running. Impossible light combinations between bright bursts and dark shadows. Too much speed and motion to catch focus. I got out-of-the-way and played the dials.
Strolling down the path a little further, we came to the place where they keep the snakes. I knew it would be dark and too much thinking would smudge the images and screw with the light. I took a deep breath and became the snake. Slowly slithering I shot one after another. Bending and curling I spun the dials to let the light in wrapped in deadly fear.
Having survived the snake pit, the crowd of us crossed a bridge. I remembered all the photographs I’ve ever seen and admired how some shooters make the tall look flat and the wide look long. I thought about how great they are and wondered if I could play one of their songs.
Something about the big bolts in the bridge reminded me of a familiar perspective and I grabbed it, twisted it and included this mimic as a tribute to them.
More dumb birds. Been there before and could not imagine anything none Disney about to happen. Another breath; I squinted and squeezed… searching through the view finder for the non-obvious and bizarre. Magically, while a stereotypical flock of pink flamingos strutted and ran one way… a snowy white egret ran the other.
Lost in someone elses rock star talent the weird sights started to surge before me. Water reflections became smoke and sunlight burst like hot coals on fire as floating birds paddled through it all uncooked.
Smooth murky dark water became spinning grape cyclones as innocent white beasts proudly point their long orange beaks.
A peaceful magnificent swan swam by. I could almost hear the classical music all around her. And as the music got louder as she got closer and then got quieter as she swam away, I could see little balls of fire under the water that she seemed to pat with each web foot stroke.
Another swan floated over. She turned the water to rigid blue glass before her and as she paddled forward made it go soft like a thick cobalt curtain pushing her way through. Then other birds appeared changing the dark oil around them into various peppered soups, each of them squirting out unique lines of turquoise among the dark gloss.
I was no longer there. Lost in the deep dark channel I saw what they saw. I looked where they looked and I captured what sparkled in their world. Air thick with textures. Liquid mirrors that could be stood on, where splashes of color could be moved around like redecorating a room, with a push of a beak.
A screeching bird in the distance snapped me out of the ornithological trance. “Come look it at me” it yelled. “Watch how still I can stand on this tiny post. Can you see me make my feathers look like drift wood?” I watched as this hawk sat perfectly still. I wondered what it was like to have eye balls as big a my nose. I wondered what I would be able to see with those telescopic peepers.
Then came the eagles. Have you ever seen an eagle up close? They are very odd. One minute they could look magnificent enough to be the symbol of a global world power. The next minute they make a goofy expression with their mouths and turn their head and show their eyes in way that could only be portrayed by a goofy cartoon.
I shared the awesome but kept the goofy shots for my own personal humble collection.
And as if I wasn’t overwhelmed enough, a wise old owl stood there and stared at me. “Who do you think you are?” it said with its enormous eyes. I shot it and shook my head and felt myself coming back to seeing what everyone else saw. Exhausted from the journey into the dark and murky, it was time to leave the park. “A wise decision” it said as I walked away.
I grabbed a gator glancing and a hippo heaving.
We all waited in the air-conditioned gift shop for the tram to appear and chauffeur us back to the place where we all started from. I sat there and sipped on an ice-cold apple juice like most wanna be rock stars. Looking out the window, thinking about my moments of transformation … my time in the creative channel.
That’s when a gigantic butterfly fluttered by. I heard it. I heard it say to me, “come out and shoot me too. I will wait for you to finish your apple juice you big baby.” Gone again for the moment, I swallowed the last sip and walked out the door and watched that butterfly pose and spread its wings for me like a Victoria Secret model.