Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

December 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

We have had such miserable weather here lately, I have resorted to editing old images just to keep thinking about photography. I have shot a few things inside, that I don’t really like, so when the sun popped out on Christmas Eve I bolted out the door, camera in hand.

We have thousands of birds that overwinter in our valley, and I’m always looking for that elusive shot that captures the way I feel when I see them. As I’ve stated previously, I’m not a wildlife photographer, so capturing images of birds is outside my comfort zone. I don’t go on autopilot when I see a field of birds. I have to stop and think about what settings I want on my camera, what lens to use, whether or not to set up a tripod, etc. That’s not how I shoot when I am in a garden. I am on autopilot with my macro lens. I hardly think – I just act.

With the birds, it’s important to be aware of one’s impact. They are here to feed and get fat so they can make the long trek back to their summer homes. It’s important not to stress or disturb them.

Fortunately, I found a great gathering in a potato field next to a farm road. I drive a hybrid car, so when it goes into ‘stealth’ mode, it’s very quiet. I was able to pull over and let the birds get used to my presence before I stepped out of the car to take pictures.

A field and sky full of trumpeter swans and mallards against the dark blue mountains of the Skagit Valley. Birds overwinter in Skagit Valley fields. Trumpeter swans feed on abandoned spuds in a fallow potato field. Mallards swirl behind them.

It was great fun for me to try and capture the essence of what I could see and hear. The trumpeter swans are noisy, and the mallards in the field were jumpy and would take off in a heartbeat.

I stayed for about an hour, just trying to catch one or two good shots. I did finally get more comfortable with my camera, but just as I was relaxing into the shoot, a local farmer drove up to chat. He was a charming older gentleman who lived across the street from where I was shooting. We chatted for a while and he told me a funny story about being a kid and deciding he needed an ice cream cone, so he drove his tractor into our town.

This kind of spontaneous chat is one of the best things about living in a rural area. It’s also outside my comfort zone. I’m glad that I seem approachable enough to invite a chat. It happens a lot. But, as an introvert, I’m rarely going to initiate the conversation.

A lone trumpeter swan flies low, close to a powerline. Trumpeter SwanThe trumpeter swans sometimes run into power lines, so reflectors have been added to the power lines.

What’s my point? Sometimes you need to just step outside your comfort zone to crack open your creativity again. Go someplace different. Shoot alongside people you barely know. Shoot a subject that’s atypical for you. Take your camera off automatic and try it on manual or aperture priority. Whatever it is that holds you back – step up and try it. Maybe you’ll succeed. Maybe you will learn something new and valuable. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll make a new friend.

A pair of trumpeter swans are flying low to land in a puddle where other swans are eating old spuds. Incoming!A pair of trumpeter swans come in for a landing in the wet potato field where their relatives are feasting on old spuds.


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