Call me Ishmael…

Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—I became obsessed with a certain creature. Upon seeing these words (and the title of this post) you might be thinking of a certain great white whale. But no. I became obsessed with a small red bird.

I spotted him one day while toiling–or perhaps piddling–in the backyard. I was immediately attracted to this bird’s bright red plumage, to his black “robber’s mask”, his regal crest, and his lovely song.

Soon, nothing would do but to capture him in a photograph. So it came to be that every time I saw him, I went inside to fetch my camera. I had tried in vain to take a few pictures with my phone, but I really needed the physical zoom of a DSLR. As it turns out over the weeks and months that followed, I got lots of bad photographs of the little guy. He was quite camera shy and was particularly skilled at avoiding being captured on “film”.

The quest stretched through the years. I became adept at recognizing his song and frequently headed out for a photoshoot. I continued to get lots of pictures, still none of them were the shot I wanted. Perhaps the photo was out of focus, or the lighting was dim, or a twig or leaf photobombed the shot. I usually only got the chance to snap three or four pictures on any particular day before he flew away.

But something miraculous happened along the way. While in pursuit of this cardinal, I began photographing other subjects in the backyard, and have taken unexpected photographs that I have come to really love. Bob Ross would call these photos “happy accidents”. Others might call them “fortuitous encounters”. Regardless, I was richly rewarded with lots of other things in my backyard that made for interesting material.

For example, one day, I heard the cardinal, went outside with my camera, and realized I had stumbled into a monarch butterfly migration. Here are some shots from that encounter:


And here is my favorite:


Her Own Little World


I was fortunate enough to capture this green anole. I think this pose indicates he is on the prowl. It’s his way of saying, “What’s a nice girl like you…”



It was also during this time that I discovered dragonflies. I am particularly proud of this one. I call it “The Fire That Burns Within”.


The Fire That Burns Within


Here’s another favorite called Tiny Dancer:


Tiny Dancer


I photoshopped Tiny Dancer into a picture I had also taken of the full moon. The resulting piece is called “Dance by the Light of the Moon.”


Dance by the Light of the Moon


I like to believe that the cardinal I was chasing was the same one every year. I seriously doubt that it was. Even day-to-day, or hour-to-hour, I doubt it was the same cardinal. But it was always fun to think I was chasing “that cardinal”, like Captain Ahab chased his whale.

Finally, just this year, I got the shot I wanted, and unlike Captain Ahab, I lived to see another day.

Ahab’s Dream


The thing I learned from this experience is that it’s fun to have a goal and to pursue a dream, but one should also be on the lookout for those “fortuitous encounters”. Doing this has made a big difference in my life.

I encourage you to do the same.