Thursday, June 8, 2017


            The word “passion,” I recall from my teaching career in a previous life, is derived from a Latin word meaning “suffer.” That should have warned me.

            Experts on aging advise how important it is to have a passion in your life. I’m not sure it’s as important as regular exercise or flossing, but it’s close. These experts are experts in staying young. Their passion is giving advice.

            My wife has a passion for photography. I encouraged her in this passion – I believe the correct term for me is “enabler” – by buying her an inexpensive digital camera. She began indulging her passion by snapping pictures of my face as I was undergoing plastic surgery following melanoma surgery. She soon moved up to grandkids, high school kids in saggy costumes, the moon, manhole covers, and construction workers.

            Passions really become dangerous when they merge with other passions. You know – like drinking and gambling. Kim’s passions really started heating when her newfound zeal for digital photography merged with her longstanding zeal for birds. This soon led to a need for an improved camera, one designated “SLR,” which I believe stands for “shoot, look, reject.” Then there was a bigger telephoto lens, then a better SLR camera, and currently being shipped, an even bigger telephoto lens. So it goes. We have some great photographs of birds, and Kim recently won a prize. It’s a photograph of a horse, but we were looking for birds when she took it.

            You know how addicts frequently try to hook others onto their addiction? So they can say, “See – I’m not the only one whose life is consumed by this. So, shut up.” The logic here is a little sketchy, but you see my point. Well, Kim is trying very hard to get me hooked on photography.

            So far she has had limited success – limited because she underestimates my technophobia. She is dedicated to learning how to use all the dials, buttons and “menus” on her camera. Now, I know what a menu us, and I can usually deal with it unless it’s in French. But no matter how patiently she explains this stuff to me, after about six words it just slides off my brain, out my ear and onto the floor. Of course, it does me absolutely no good to realize that Kim experienced the same frustration but managed to push through it one step at a time through trial and error, asking her birdphoto-buddies, and finally, reading the manual. None of these approaches really appeals to me. I’d rather point and shoot with her first simple camera and hope luck brings a nice image onto my sensor. As I said, photography is her passion. She reads photo magazines and camera manuals in the bathroom; I read fiction.

            But Kim is difficult to discourage. She praises my pictures whenever she can, saying that I have “a good eye.” I realize that my eye is not the problem – it’s the camera/brain interface. She also has designated her pre-upgrade SLR camera as “your camera” and is exploring the best tripod for me to purchase. She’s already bought me a couple of shirts that are great for bird photography, and soon I’ll have an “outfit.” She’s convinced that if I really try photography, seriously, I’ll get one great shot, realize what all the excitement is about, and be hooked. Other people had the same theory about why I would take to golf, but I never hit that great shot. I do have an OK one of bugs on a “No Swimming” sign, but that’s a long way from bird photography. Kind of like miniature golf and golf.

            I enjoy using my binoculars, a wonderfully low-tech device. What I don’t enjoy is lowering my binoculars to grab the camera also hanging from my neck (along with my bag with spare batteries and “cards,” along with water and a candy bar), remembering to turn it on, check the ISO and aperture, remembering to remove the lens cap, see if the image stabilizer is on, decide if I want manual focus or auto-focus, and perhaps also check the white balance and maybe set it up for bracketing if the lighting is weird. By the time I do all this, the bird has migrated to northern Canada, and I’m left with a clear shot of an empty sky or perhaps some smudgy bushes. Still, I’m content with my plodding progress with “my camera.” Low expectations help.

            But don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy photography. Just not my own. I have to be reminded to download my images onto the computer. I occasionally enjoy taking photographs, because a camera, like binoculars, helps me pay attention. But I lack the passion. I love the slide shows Kim presents on the computer after she has narrowed down the day’s 300 shots to a manageable 25. And I love being out in the woods or on the prairie with Kim, enjoying her enjoyment. I love being her spotter. While she is looking at something through her viewfinder (if that’s the right term), I’ll see a small brown movement in the bushes or a distant flapping speck and shout “Bird!” and point. Come to think of it, that’s not very different from what a bird dog does.

            Does Kim’s passion for bird photography help to keep her young? I believe that it does, especially when she awakens me at five in the morning with the news that there might be birds waiting for us out by the bridge, and the coffee is made. Or when we’ve been out on the prairie for a few hours – she hauling her camera with mega-lens and the attached tripod, me dragging behind with my binoculars and candy bar – and she says, “Oh! Let’s try this side path! We might see a Purple Gallinule, and the light is perfect. It won’t take long! Are you getting tired?” That’s the sound of passion.

If you have any passions you'd like to share, write me at

From Jerry Shimp:
Dave, my passion has been flying since 1958. On Tuesday I got to fly a P-51 (WWII Mustang), something I have dreamed about for 50 years. One of the great moments of my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment