One of the exercises I give photography students is to go to a very familiar place and find something surprising, something new, and make an image that wows you.
It’s a hard assignment. Of course, it’s an exercise in slowing down and seeing what you think you already know.
The Lily Ponds at Tower Grove Park in South St. Louis is one of those places for me. Like Monet’s garden in Giverny, these ponds are old and beautiful and set in a 19th Century Victorian Garden. It is one of St. Louis’ treasures. They are magnificent. They are inspirational. They are a little magical.
I go back to the lilies every year. And every year I wonder why I’m going. I couldn’t possibly find anything new. Water lilies are much photographed. Can I do anything new or interesting or “wow?”
It’s the exercise every artist needs. Go the familiar and find the new.
This morning there was fog over the city. Our humidity is high, with a temp to match. The light was perfect. Bright but diffused. A little golden left over from sunrise.
I walked among the soaked, dewy grass and stopped when I heard it. Bull frogs. That was new. A splash or two or five as I disturbed them. Didn’t see them, but they were telling me there were there.
About ten minutes into the shoot, I saw him. Sitting on a pad pushed under the water by his weight. I stopped. I greet him. I moved slowly. We didn’t take our eyes off each other. I’d like to think he agreed to the photograph. It would be great if he were nearer that flower, I thought. He moved toward it.
I made some images, and adjusted a setting to get a better depth of field.
The camera stopped working. WHAT?! BROKEN! Yikes. No!
The bull frog ducked under the water, as if to say “If you’re not competent enough to operate the camera, I have no time for you.”