If you watch the news, you’re aware that stalking has a negative meaning. You learn about creepy people who obsess over public figures and lurk in alleys or near back windows to sneak peeks. Possessed photographers trailing Princess Diana contributed to her fatal car accident. Hollywood loves the stalker theme and banks big bucks developing thrillers to keep us on the edge of our seats to discover whether the victim escapes in time.
While each of the previous examples sends a shiver up my spine just thinking about the topic, nature photographers have to borrow stalker skills so they can capture shots that make viewers say, “Wow!” Hiding in a bush, tree, or ghilley suit is sometimes the only way a shutterbug can snap an image of a beast, insect, or bird going about normal business.
I recently got caught stalking hummingbirds in Meeker, Colorado. During our entire vacation, I wore my camera like a clunky necklace or carried it attached like Edward Scissorhand’s extra appendages. I wanted a picture of a hummer sipping nectar from a real flower, not a plastic bloom. Trying to capture a natural shot like that is much harder than you’d think.
Stopping in the city park so my husband could make phone calls while we had good reception began my adventure. As I waited for him to complete his contacts, I spied a nearby garden of spiky hollyhock stems, planted just west of the men’s restroom. Hummingbirds do love these tropical looking blooms, so I zeroed in on this locale.
Hidden in the front seat of the car, I noted a couple of torpedo shapes with needle beaks weaving in and out of the flowerbed. Not wanting to seem creepy and hang close to the door of the boy’s bathroom, I tried shooting pictures from the west and south sides of the garden. Unfortunately, the light was wrong, and all I collected on my SD card were washed out, blurry images of these summer charmers.
Gradually, I edged around the hollyhock bed ‘til I found just the right rays to capture clear pictures of zipping hummers. Waiting and watching for perfect shots took a toll on my back. To relieve the crick that was developing, I propped myself against the nearest available wall, not thinking about where I was or what someone might think.
For about 20 minutes, repeated camera clicks and whirs made it sound as if I were a National Geographic professional capturing one photo after another of delicate birds and blooms. This was a nice fantasy until a city employee interrupted my reverie and stared at me oddly.
It dawned on me that I was leaning against the boy’s restroom with camera in hand. Stammering with embarrassment, I explained I was shooting hummingbirds with my Nikon. Thank goodness, the man was a hunter and understood the concept of stalking game so he didn’t think I was a weirdo. I did see him walk away, shaking his head and smiling.
After I got home and uploaded my pictures on my computer, I discovered I took better shots than expected. Examining those hummingbird photos thrilled me. I realized I’d caught tiny feet resting on delicate petals, wings whirring in a dizzying blur, and long beaks sipping nectar.
The results were worth that awkward moment when I saw the maintenance man wondering whether he needed to call in a stalker.