Saturday Evening Post #185: The Magic of Being There

Some interesting comments came up last week from the way I curate my library of photos.
It’s hard on a single page to cover all the ins and outs and to not sound like setting some rules. I guess I was taken by the number of recent blogs and newsletters that have now made a change from ‘save everything’ etc.

There is of course the another side to why we take, and what we share photographically. As Mr. An Onymous is oft to say, “Just being out there in the field is enough. Birds are a bonus”.

Photography is so good at providing a visual memory of a holiday, party, event or field trip. Looking back through my library can provide a feeling of the time we spent in a location, the birds, the weather, the company and the enjoyment.

I found this quote from Sarah Leen who was (is?) Director of Photography at National Geographic.

“It (Photography) has been the way that I have experienced much of the world. In a deeply personal way I feel an image is a poem about time, about “staying the moment.” Photography can defeat time. Images can keep the memory of a loved one alive, hold a moment in history for future generations, be a witness to tragedy or joy. They can also change behavior, stimulate understanding and create a sense of urgency that will move people to action. Photography is the universal language that speaks to the heart.”

To me photography has always been about storytelling. The eye of the photo-journalist at finding both the story and being able to bring it to the page.

Storytelling goes back to the earliest days of photography. One of the very first ‘war photographers’ was an Englishman named Roger Fenton. He was appointed the first official photographer for the British Museum and in 1855 spent time in the Crimea photographing the war. One of his most (in)famous photos shows the also infamous “Valley of the Shadow of Death” (Yet we need to be careful, as this is not the site of the equally infamous charge of the Light Brigage)
It has a most interesting history in that there seems to be two versions. One with cannon balls on the roadway, and one without.
The question arises did he have them placed for dramatic effect or cleared away for pictorial feel?
This is a good review
Either way it is part of his storytelling and adds to the story in a graphic detailed way.

So yes, my library does have lots of shots that will never be acclaimed, but as I review them from time to time, the magic of being in the presence of the bird is a heartwarming experience.

3 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #185: The Magic of Being There

  1. Great thoughts, David! The review of the Fenton image is a good read too! Staging is so very common in TV land that it is the norm now, often to reinforce a particular reporter’s point of view. Sometimes it will draw attention to a situation other times it can change the story dramatically.
    When it comes to curating, often the image is kept, be it worthy or not, as it holds memories. More often than not only for the photographer. I generally keep too many, but then digital storage is relatively cheap these days.


  2. Ah yes, the memories that are awakened by looking at a particular photograph or series of shots. Luckily, as Dave says, digital storage is reasonably cheap!

    I did find the article on the Fenton images very interesting, so thanks for that link.


  3. Loved your narrative David, well expressed. Yes the picture tells its own story without words, like music it has a language of its own, conveying far more than words can, which is why a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’ rings true. I guess I can understand myself from what you shared about the relationship between personal encounters with birds being etched in each image, and how it recalls the experience fresh each time it is viewed. I am amazed that I can recall when I review one of my thousands of images where and when I took it, and what the bird was doing that caught my attention at the time. Was an interesting read regarding the cannonball placement for the photo, and the accuracy of images recording history as it was. Images are art to a professional photographer being commissioned for the purpose and as such may allow licence to staging them for effect, though I know my dads photos of war were real and graphic as they were purely a record of what was.
    Thanks again for an enlightening post, and love the Yellow Tail in flight. Must conclude agreeing, it is the magic of being there that we try to capture and relive from our photos, yes they do take us into beautiful place which many never venture to enjoy, whereas us birders are very blessed in this way.


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