The Heart of a Photograph

One of my dream careers has always been wildlife photography. I imagined going on safaris in Africa and taking wildly striking photos of lions and zebras. I’m still going to do that someday! I don’t believe photography is meant to be my career, but it is still a big passion of mine, and a great hobby. When I received my camera as a gift a few years ago, I was sooo excited… and a bit overwhelmed. This tool meant I had no excuse not to capture those beautiful moments I previously stored in my own messy memory. It meant I could look back at the image and remember who I was spending time with, and how much we were enjoying that time. It meant instead of just pointing excitedly at the hawks perched on telephone poles, I could stop the car and keep the memory of that feathery spirit animal.

I love this photograph. By professional standards, it isn’t great. It probably isn’t even “okay” but it’s amazing to me. It is the very first wildlife photo I took with my professional camera. I had seen this hawk perched around the same area almost every time I drove by. It became clear to me that hawks were a spirit animal at that time. I had seen this bird perched probably ten times, and always drove right passed. The eleventh time, I was shopping with my mom. We were heading back to her house and the hawk was sitting lower to the ground. I decided in that moment that I would grab my camera and come back to the spot. If the hawk was still there, I would get a picture of it. My dad and my brother Noah actually came with me to take the photo. They sat and watched the bird while I tried to figure out how to work the camera properly. It was a groundbreaking moment for me, one that opened the world up to me. This world is full of magnificent moments that we often miss. Those are my favorite moments to capture. Sometimes the hawk perched on a pole goes unnoticed, but when I do see them I do my best to stop and capture the moment.

My cardinal friend from my old backyard. He is the subject of many photos!

Since that first hawk, I have taken many more photos. I’ve worked on developing more skills, and have barely scratched the surface of what my camera can do. As a self-proclaimed novice in photography, there are some photos that I see great quality in. This photo is of Zenda, a lion at Brookfield Zoo. I stood on my tiptoes, held the camera about six inches above my head, and captured this absolutely majestic image.

Disclaimer: this photo is not for commercial use!

It’s taken me some time to realize it, but I don’t care about making money from my photos. I used to think that was the goal, but my perspective has changed. Others might see the image, and may even think it’s a decent photo. To me, that photo is more than just the image that is shown. That hawk pushed me to use the camera and really discover a passion I knew about, but hadn’t explored. That cardinal put a smile on my face every time he graced me with his presence. He and his cardinal wife would sing back and forth, and the moment I heard the familiar melody I would reach for the camera. That lion inspired me to hold my camera in a ridiculous way, a way that captured one of the best photos I have ever taken. It no longer matters to me what others think of the quality of my photos. I know their stories and what the mean to me, and that is all they need to be beautiful. When you are proud of something you have created, that is all you need. Sharing it with others and having them love it is a bonus. Let yourself be proud of your art, even if you are the only one!