The Spectacular Ordinary
We are all connected to the natural world in some degree. There are those of us who forge this connection through photography, while others enjoy camping or hiking, even time spent simply gardening is in itself an appreciation of mother nature.
It is unfortunate, however, that we have been molded by society and modern culture to chase instant gratification and nothing seems to be able to quench out insatiable thirst for the “wow-factor”; I have seen it first hand on safari, when people are so blinded by their lust to find the big five, that they miss or even ignore an infinite amount of magical moments in-between. They are chasing rather than experiencing; unfortunately, I see it more often than not and it’s really the opposite of what a safari is about. Safaris are not just about seeing the big five, going on safari is about experiencing Africa, immersing yourself in the wild, going on an adventure… let me get back on track before I go off on a tangent about the modern safari goer.
Back to our insatiable thirst to experience the constant “wow-factor”; this holds especially true when we spend time outdoors, we always hope to see the incredible, experience something which we deem amazing, see animals that we consider special. It is that very thought process that has jaded us to what makes spending time in nature special, and that is to experience her “normal”, her “spectacular ordinary”. (that is where the magical moments live)
When I talk about nature’s “spectacular” I am talking about those moments which will completely mesmerize you if you simply just look. When on safari, or even just out on a hike or a visit to your local park, we tend to ignore so much incredible beauty in the vain chase to see something “better”. This in itself, diminishes the entire experience and point of being out in nature.
When one takes time to experience nature in its entirety, when you take a moment to appreciate the guinea fowl as much as the lion, only then do you expose yourself to a beauty the will leave you spellbound. When you open yourself up to a mindset of discovery, even a simple stroll in your neighborhood will leave you with magical moments. We have become so jaded and even left numb by the information age, we have resigned ourselves to the notion that we don’t have to discover anymore, because with the click of the mouse we can access imagery and information about every creature on this planet. My qualm is not with information, but with the way it is attained. We should never cease to discover, we should never stop exploring, we set ourselves on a path of disconnecting with nature when we choose to watch her on a screen rather than experience her in real life.
I have spent many days on the back of a Land Rover in the African bushveld, searching for Africa’s famous Big Five, and while searching for these iconic creatures, I make it a point to stop and spend a moment with all of the creatures that I find along the way. This has led me to some of my most memorable moments in the bushveld and without a doubt allowed me to capture some of my favorite images. Images that were captured in the most off the cuff instances, all because I chose to top my insatiable chase, and appreciate all that was in front of me. We were out tracking lions at sunrise when we drove past these Helmeted Guineafowls roosting in a tree. We drove by at first, until it registered just what a beautiful sight that was. These birds that we pass countless times a day, were presenting us with one of the most beautiful sights we had seen.
Time in nature should not be spent chasing, but rather immersing. Spend time with the butterflies, the sparrows and the ladybugs, take a moment to enjoy all of nature’s creatures, for they all are pieces of the puzzle that you are trying to complete. Challenge yourself to spend time enjoying moments in the company of nature’s “spectacular ordinary” and you will not come up wanting. Teach your children that a sparrow taking its first flight is as spectacular as a cheetah at full burst, that a monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis is as breathtaking as a leopard pulling its kill up a tree.
As a wildlife photographer I have found myself photographing these moments more often than not. I have spent many a day in the company of ladybugs and egrets, or even hours photographing Sandpipers wading in the shallows. I have also learned the importance of putting the camera down and just taking it all in without taking a picture, because I don’t want to only experience nature through a viewfinder. I want to be able to enjoy more sunsets than I capture, I want to watch a cheetah at full speed without freezing the moment, I want to hear the melodies of the songbirds without photographing them. I say this because, yes, I am a nature photographer, but I am a nature photographer because I am a nature lover.
I tried to keep this blog as short as possible because my goal was for my readers to be inspired to reconnect with nature and take a moment to experience her “spectacular ordinary”. Remember reconnecting with nature starts with a simple walk in a neighborhood park.
When you go searching for nature's spectacular ordinary, you realize that in your search, what you really find is yourself, with your soul reenergized.