This place, this time

Here’s one of my early great blue heron shots, from 2010.

Great Blue Heron

It’s not bad, I know. The point is not this picture is great or abysmal… just that it’s not my best. I went looking for one of my earlier shots and this is the one I can bear to post. Herons were shiny new photographic subjects for me, and I remember the day I took this one, and I remember it was a happy experience.

This week, I took some shots I’m quite pleased with; they’re still on the camera. I also recently, in my pursuit of the best damned heron shot I could manage, knocked “Full heron in flight” off my personal list:

Stanley Park

Usually when they take off I’m not quite ready. This time I knew.

So… I can go for a better heron flying shot, but in some ways I can consider that a Thing I’ve Done.

I’m no ornithologist, but in many ways, I have these birds sussed. I chase them around the beaches and I know when they’re too busy looking for food to care if there’s a human around, and I can usually tell when something’s got them thinking about flying off. I can see if the sun’s so bright it’s going to wash out their white bits or if it’s too overcast for the camera to pick them effectively out of the grey of the sea. I got adolescent heron pee on my hat and my camera bag this week (thank Chaos for the hat) scoping out the newest crop of high-flying fishers.

There’s plenty of room above my best heron shots for me to keep improving at this. I am no pro. The bar has lots of room to go up. In my writing, I pursue this like a fiend–the ever smaller but oh so satisfying slices of ‘did that better!’ and ‘Oooh, so pretty!’ The things I wrote in the Stormwrack universe today blew my mind with joy. You’ll like them too.

But photography’s a hobby. It’s part of my day to day practice of making myself happy. The heron’s a familiar challenge, and getting pretty good shots of them has become easy. And while I’m not giving up picture-making or bird-chasing, because I really enjoy it, I also recognize that I am in a space where I need some challenges that come with a heavy dose of the unfamiliar. I need to take up some things that I know nothing about, am interested in but also daunted by. Things I–at least to some extent–suck at.

Which is a long-winded and literal but also metaphorical way of saying I’ve been very engaged lately in looking around at my life, and the herons in it. The things in it that are familiar, and comfortable, and easy. And I am considering ways to reframe some elements of that life so that they are uncomfortable, at least in the short term, and harder, and with any luck, even more gratifying.

It’s a good process, not entirely fun–because who wants to run toward discomfort? And, thus, it’s not been exactly painless. But even beginning has made me look at the familiar with refreshed love and an intense, electrifying sense of awareness.

I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes.

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About Alyx Dellamonica

After twenty-two years in Vancouver, B.C., I've recently moved to Toronto Ontario, where I make my living writing science fiction and fantasy; I also review books and teach writing online at UCLA. I'm a legally married lesbian, a coffee snob, and I wake up at an appallingly early hour.

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