Photography: saying thank you for small as well as big

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 8, 2009 

Detail in a bee’s wings and the jubilant orange petals of a flower at Cochrane’s Rustic Market Square illustrate the value of always having a camera at hand. 
Photos by Warren Harbeck.

In last week’s column we looked at the big picture of beautiful Cochrane through the imaginative lens of panorama photographer John Hall. In particular, we saw John’s Photoshopped interpretation of a swarm of hang gliders and paragliders sailing the updrafts along Big Hill against a nearly 180-degree backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, Bow Valley and the Town of Cochrane. Big is beautiful here in the Canadian West.

But small is beautiful, too. And that’s one of the reasons I try always to have a pocket-size digital point-and-shoot camera with me almost everywhere I go about town, whether in coffee shops and stores, along the walkways, or in the beautiful gardens and flower beds maintained by local merchants and residents. (Remember, the camera you have with you always takes better pictures than the camera sitting at home on the shelf!)

For example, a couple of weeks ago as part of my morning routine I picked up my usual mug of light roast at Cochrane Coffee Traders and moseyed across the street to Rustic Market Square, a friendly community of shops centred around an inviting floral garden.

I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought the garden was inviting. Flitting among some brilliant yellow blossoms was a chubby, busy bee, pausing here and there on its own “coffee break,” seemingly oblivious to my presence.

Setting my cup down for a moment, I grabbed my camera (a Canon G10), quickly adjusted it for close-ups, then held it only about two inches from the bee and snapped a shot. The bee flew off to another flower so suddenly that I wasn’t sure I had even captured it. Fortunately, in this instance the shutter was faster than the bee, and when I checked out the image I was delighted to see the camera had caught the bee just as it was spreading its wings to take flight.

And didn’t I say small is beautiful? The nearly transparent wings of the tiny garden guest had amazing detail in them, like the leading in a fine stained-glass window. Faster than you can say “What’s buzzin’, cousin?” the bee and I had bonded in a moment of breathtaking beauty.

Speaking of breathtaking beauty, have you noticed the floral hanging baskets so popular around Cochrane? My camera likes them, too.

Not far from where the bee was buzzing around the blossoms, there was an eye-catching basket hanging along the deck of Rustic Market Square. One blossom especially caught my attention, its orange petals reaching toward the sky in a burst of freedom.

Yes, the smallness of a bee or a blossom is just as beautiful as the photogenic grandeur of the Rockies and the Bow River valley. For me, the importance of photography is to learn to see well, whether the big or the small. It’s a great way to whisper a prayer of gratitude for the moment.

© 2009 Warren Harbeck

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