There are days when I feel guilty. Really, really guilty.
November/December/January … not so much guilt. April/May/June … lots of guilt. My professional guilt seems to directly coincide with the weather.
If I’m out risking my life and limbs in the world’s worst blizzard, searching for a feature photo, cubicle jobs seem like a darn good deal.
But, when it reaches 70 degrees for the first time this year and I’m walking on a nature trail, camera in hand, there are times when I feel like I should hide. What if some poor office guy in the building across the river sees me through his window as he’s crunching numbers and staring down the clock? Hopefully he likes air conditioning. (And, most likely, a big paycheck.)
Last week Thursday — by far, the nicest day this year — I was asked to head out to Deer Creek Sanctuary, New Berlin, and look for some people using the nature trail. The New Berlin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission has recommended the trail be named for the late Paul Gihring, a former member of the commission and the city’s Plan Commission.
I walked the trail for about a half hour, without a person in sight. I listened to the animals along the river and in the woods. I took a few useless snaps of the water and the trees. We’ll put those in my, “Photography is Art” book, to be published in the year, Two-thousand-Never.
And, I stood there … waiting, hoping, praying that someone would run into my frame. As journalists, we need a person. Pictures of shadows and flowers are not acceptable, no matter how pretty they may be.
Photographers often fantasize about what would make their photo just perfect. Better light, endless emotion, a plane landing in my very own backyard ... you name it. I’m not sure if I thought a kayaker was going to come down this tiny creek in New Berlin or what, but I knew something had to happen. And soon. The guilt was overwhelming — I could almost feel my summer tan kicking in.
Suddenly, out of pure silence, I heard a few kids coming down the trail. Great, I thought. As I lifted my camera, a runner whizzed past me. Then, a lady passed, walking her dog. And as I approached the kids, a man on a bike zipped by. It was almost laughable — I had waited all this time, and within 60 seconds, the photo gods dropped four different groups of people, right into my lap.
I ended up snapping a few pictures of the kids with my long lens before they noticed I was there. The best moments come when no one sees you. As the kids walked through the woods, I waited for two of them to be right in between the branches. I snapped about three frames before the little boy heard my camera click. Then, he started waving. When the waving starts, the photo opp is over. But, I already had what I needed.
Nikon D3, 155 mm, 320 ISO, f2.8, 1/2500, Manual
"This (trail) is a treasure," said Lou Serchen (not pictured), the mother of Margaret Serchen, pictured above walking with Simon Smrecek along the trail at Deer Creek Sanctuary, New Berlin, Thursday, April 16, 2009. "Right now, we're here because the frogs are here," Serchen said, explaining this time of year is when the frogs are most active. The New Berlin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission has recommended the trail be named for the late Paul Gihring, a former member of the commission and the city's Plan Commission. Gihring died suddenly last fall.
Of course, after I snap a picture, I approach the parents to make sure it’s OK if their children are in the paper. Most of the time, they agree. The mothers of these two children were a perfect find. I was able to get a few quotes to add to the cutline of my photo. These two families truly love this area of New Berlin, and I was happy to be able to help shed some light on one of our city's hidden treasures.
When I came in to work this morning, I found out this story and photo won't run in this week's paper, due to space restrictions because of low advertising. Journalism is hurting these days, my friends, and it has been ever since our best buddy, The Internet, came along. This story and photo will be online, only. Was it worth it, I asked? Yes, it was. The story will still be told, even if it's to a much smaller audience. But it is a sign of the times — it's my hope that people will realize what role local journalism plays in our society, before it's far too late.