Please forgive me but, in this post, I must cluck a little about a photography submission I made to Outdoor Oklahoma Magazine earlier this spring. We subscribe to the bi-monthly magazine and a weekly email as well, both put out by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). As a state licensed wildlife rehabilitator, I enjoy the magazine articles about various wildlife species. And, as an amateur photographer, I also enjoy the wildlife photography for which the magazine consistently receives national recognition.
Back in March, I stumbled across the guidelines for submitting entries to the Annual Readers’ Photography Showcase via the weekly email sent by the ODWC and thought, “What could it hurt?” The instructions seemed easy enough. I poured over my archive of nature photos for more than a week. This was tougher than I thought. I had many beautiful and interesting photographs that I liked, but wondered just what would appeal to the judges? I looked back over previous issues of Outdoor Oklahoma and got a better idea of what they might be looking for. With this in mind, I carefully made my selections and submitted them via email late in March, just before the deadline. Any photographs selected would appear in the July/August issue of the magazine.
By the time June rolled around, I had long forgotten about the contest entries I made until I received an email from an associate editor to the magazine, asking for clarification about a photo I had submitted. The inquiry was about a photograph of Frosty, an orphaned Red Fox Squirrel FD had found in Southeastern Oklahoma. (Click this link and you can read about our adventure raising “Frosty the Squirrel” .)
Frosty became quite the character around here, and he loved the camera! Eventually, he struck out on his own and we didn’t see him much anymore. In fact, FD only recently spotted him in our neighbor’s yard two places down. Not long after we released Frosty, I had the good fortune of capturing several wonderful photographs of him. For the submission to Outdoor Oklahoma, I did not choose my favorite, but picked a photo that I thought had photographic appeal.
Oh, yes, back to the call from the associate editor – I could jabber on about our adventures with Frosty all day! Anyway, I answered the questions asked of me, feeling confident the photo was being considered for selection in the Reader’s Showcase. Then once again, I got busy with the summer’s activities and promptly forgot about the contest.
About a month ago, the July/August issue of Outdoor Oklahoma arrived in the mail. I became quite excited as I suddenly remembered my photography submissions and, seeing the glossy pages inside, I immediately wanted to flip through the Reader’s Showcase section. However, I somehow disciplined myself and, as I walked from the mailbox to the house (about a football field distance away), I gently turned the pages, admiring the work of many different photographers, both amateur and professional. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine pages and nothing with my name on it! Some pages had two or three photos featured, while a very lucky few had a whole page dedicated to their photograph. I was beginning to feel dejected.
The work of many of the showcase photographs featured in the magazine was outstanding, even stunning. In my own opinion, my photography paled next to most of the images I was seeing. I didn’t stand a chance, I thought. Oh, that cup-half-empty of mine… it had completely tumped over. I began having thoughts about how silly it was for me to have wasted my time entering a contest of this caliber anyway. The more photos I saw as I turned through the pages, the less confident I became. Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen… well, goodness! How long could this torment go on?
By now, I was tempted to flip quickly to the very end of the Readers’ Showcase section, but that would be cheating. No, I would just take my lumps to the bitter end. After all, these spectacular entries deserved my attention and admiration. Fourteen, fifteen, and SIXTEEN!!! There he was!! Frosty had earned a big, beautiful, full-page photograph! There were thirty-three pages of showcase photos in all. Within every page, the magazine editors did a remarkable job of representing Oklahoma nature with stunning images of landscapes and various species of wildlife.
As I continued to peruse the many photos featured, I reflected on what it takes to produce great wildlife photography like this. One thing is for sure; nature always wins. Nature has its own timetable, its own moment. What happens at this moment is not repeated – there are no retakes or do-overs. A missed shot is gone forever. I cannot tell you the number of times I thought about taking my camera with me, only to poo-poo the idea and head on out the door, thinking that it would just be in the way… and not moments later, I missed what could have been an awesome photography moment. All one can do after a gaffe like this is to look for the next opportunity.
And isn’t it much the same experience in our own lives? We are often presented with opportunities, but while thinking we have plenty of time to act, we simply do not, and miss the boat so to speak. We are in too much of a hurry to notice the moment has passed, and often, we are just not prepared for it when it comes our way. We muddle through the day with blinders on, caught up in our own busyness. Before long, the day is done, and the experiences we might have cherished with people and nature along the way, have forever vanished.
Reflecting further, the popular phrase, “Stop and smell the roses”, comes to mind. For me, this equates to spending time in nature with my camera and waiting patiently, listening and observing. Sometimes it’s about working alongside FD on a project or watching a movie together. It means spending time with my three little dogs and playing chase with them. It is about calling my Mom, or an elderly neighbor across town, just to say “hello” and chat about the weather. Other times it’s sitting quietly with Daisy deer and simply… resting. I believe that when we “stop and smell the roses” along life’s road, we put ourselves in the best position to be cognizant and aware of the opportunities that await us at every turn and, when properly seized, those opportunities very often become the winning, trophy moments of our lives!
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…