Photography Places Plants


The roses at the Missouri Botanical Garden are in full bloom, and unlike last year, I haven’t missed the early show. I spent yesterday afternoon taking photos and just walking about, enjoying the brilliant color and delicate scent.

As I was walking past the Lilypad pond on the way to the experimental rose garden, two mallard ducks swam towards me, the female hopping up on a circulation pipe, the male on the pond wall. I don’t normally pay much attention to mallards, since they’re so common. Yesterday, though, I notice how colorful the bird seemed in the bright afternoon sun.

The male has such a brilliant emerald green head, and that azure band on its wings stands out sharply against the subtle browns, blacks, and whites. The female isn’t as colorful, but does share the blue band, and the warm, dark eyes.

I started taking photos of the birds, getting close enough to pick out the intricate detail of their feathers. When was the last time I had looked closely at a mallard duck’s feathers? To notice the lacy patterns and subtle coloring, made richer by the bright, swatches of color?

Last night, as I was going through the pictures, I thought about a friend of mine who would have passed the ducks, as if they weren’t there. Chances are, though, he would also ignore the roses, the trees, the squirrels and most other things around him. He is a man who is so tightly focused on his immediate environment–his family, work, and his communication with others through the internet–that I’m not sure when the last time was he saw a rose, or really looked at a mallard.

As I uploaded the mallard photos to Flickr, I wondered if I had captured the beauty and the grace of the birds well enough to attract appreciation for their uniqueness; or would they only rate a glance and dismissal as just ducks–probably garnering more attention if they were dressed of their feathers and cooked in a delicate apricot-brandy sauce.

There are so many beautiful photos uploaded to Flickr, it’s a wonder that any photo stands out. A picture of a rose that might have drawn exclamations of delight a few years back becomes just one of many in a continuous stream of images. I’ve found that among my photos those that grab attention tend to be ones where the images are small and odd enough to not be easily identifiable. I don’t have any photos of naked people to test the hypothesis that these generate the most attention.

Speaking of which, since my ducks were preening their chest feathers, I was tempted to label the images with the tag ‘breasts’. I still might.

I’ve spent too much time on the computer today. Sometimes when I’m tired and have been staring at my computer monitor for a long time, spending hours looking at dark print on white, I’ll look up and everything in the room seems sharper, more colorful, and richer. The effect lasts only a moment, and I hold my eyes open as long as I can–until they tear. Yet I can stare at my room or out my window for hours and it will never sharpen or enhance what’s on the screen.

Not even my ducks. I showed these photos to my roommate and he said, “Uh huh. Nice. Ducks” Ducks becomes both a verb and a noun, not to mention a warning: this way there be ducks.

“What did you write about?”

“I wrote about ducks.”

“Uh huh. Nice. Ducks.”

Now when I wrote on the commonplace, the ordinary, and the benign, I’ll ‘tag’ it ducks. Who says I don’t understand how tagging works.

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