Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Two Days of the Hummingbird: Respite and Brief Exhale

Allen's Hummingbird • A Young Female

Spring has arrived at The Huntington Library where this young female will be forever young and vital like this moment. She hovers, beautiful, powerful, in control of her universe. No unravished bride of quietness, she. This Allen's Hummingbird has a future of floral abundance, surrounded with nectars to feed the young female's fecundity. 
I’ve been home from the Army only a week when Barbara has to go back to work. First day, year two, teaching high school English. This morning, she wears a light sweater over a colorful sundress. Her brown hair sits on her shoulders where she slings her purse strap, using both hands to cradle a canvas bookbag like she’ll cradle her daughter four years from now, hair greying. But right now, she’s leaving me to my own devices, no particular place to go in this brave new world.

Barbara stops at the door, turns, smiles at me. I lift my camera and take her picture. Barbara wheels about, steps out into the light and her own world.

Today, that Barbara smiles out at me from the photograph I'm holding. We make eye contact. "Hi, Barbara. It turned out good."

This young woman still lives, out there, inside the image and beyond the photo, a moment suspended in time held in my hand. She’s out there, barely out of reach on the other side of this picture. That's why I carry the foto. My Barbara's not here any more, Barbara has moved out of the light and into her own world. She's on her own.

Alzheimer’s dementia empties the person out of an individual. Barbara’s almost absent now. We have music—she knows the words to the Oldies. She has her sense of humor—she thinks Maybelline can’t help herself. The essential soul remains, a good person.

She doesn't walk well, limited by other ailments taking their toll, she often pushes a walker. She's fearful in the car, this woman who bought herself a T-Bird convertible when she retired. Like her, it doesn't run any more. "And she'll have fun, fun, fun, until they take the T-bird away."

Barbara’s spending a week living with her daughter. I’m on my own. Our daughter needs to spend this time with her mother. Barbara needs to catch up with her daughter. The Barbara in the foto would be immensely proud of what her kid is accomplishing. And our granddaughter, what an accomplished person already! A lot of joy and love is happening there. Barbara needs that while she still understands, maybe one last time.

Free time comes as a novelty to a care-giver, and a luxury not without a modicum of guilt over leaving my responsibility to someone else, I don't want to leave her alone, alone. Barbara lives in the moment, and right now, being with her daughter is the best thing for both of them. Sometimes Barbara forgets me. Right now she knows I'm not there with her, she remembers. That's good; I hope she doesn't suffer my absence. Absence hurts a lot.

A friend who’s been living with Alzheimer’s Dementia longer than I advised me to consider these open-ended days respite, a short exhale. Thank you, my friend. We care-givers have to help each other. 

Sometimes we need to forget. I do that with my camera. I use two days of my open-ended time to do so. Back before Plague-time, I pursued taking a perfect "reading your own stuff" artist portrait. Thanks to this pandemic, that goal's in abeyance, though poetry readings survive. Zoom. Mooz. 

Barbara’s photograph and I go in search of the perfect hummingbird foto at two of Southern California’s premier botanical gardens, “The Arboretum” and “The Huntington.”
Day One: Los Angeles County Arboretum
The Arboretum parking lot far as I can see down toward the entrance is parked up. I turn right and park in the most northernmost slot in the arboretum. I’m here for a good solid walk to the southernmost location, and this begins it well. 

My good, long, purposive walk guides my direction toward Tallac Knoll. The asphalt pavement gets you there on time, only a few distractions don’t delay me long. I've been scouting the arboretum for several weeks and today I've targeted prime places where I've invariably gotten a few exposures.

I’m here three hours later than earlier visits--my paid care-taker gives me four hours twice a week, 8-noon. It’s after noon at the sacred inca plant where today’s light has brightened Anna’s green-on-green appearance. 

The bush reaches the end of this year's bloom cycle. With only a few scattered flower clusters hanging freshly opened, hummingbirds have limited choices where to hover: advantage, photographer. 

I sit cross-legged on the mulchy tierra. Foiled again. The Anna’s shows up with a clean line of sight until he dips to savor a blossom cluster dragging along the earth, just out of vision of the hapless photographer. 

I stand and circle the bush, Cantua buxifolia x Cantua Glandulosa, “Sacred Flower of the Incas,” the plastic plaque informs. Set off the road 12 feet, she’s an afterthought to walkers headed past the bamboo forest toward the waterfall. 

The light at this time of day comes down at a sharp angle that catches the hovering bird’s back. The Anna’s belly gets good light reflected off the light-colored mulch floor and my white hoodie. 

 When he turns to look at me his red hood catches light just right. According to scientists, those feathers aren’t really that color. Just look at that photograph, an illusion. Thank you, light. Didn't Wittgenstein want us to imagine a red hummingbird?

A "perfect hummingbird foto" has action, discernible detail, and pleasing posture. The rump end foto of the floating Allen's would be a perfect pose, head-first. The foto is the full frame, a triumph at the near-focus limit of the lens. 

Day Two: The Huntington Library

Membership makes a difference. At San Marino California's The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, admission is twenty bucks to nonmembers. Mejor, the gardens open early to members with a reservation.

Arriving early gives a photographer the whole place to himself. The drawback at uncrowded eight a.m. on a foggy early Spring, many flower buds haven't opened and the hummingbirds are hiding out.

The Huntington's Desert Heritage Walk offers arresting floral settings that abound with hummingbirds. Getting great exposures like these requires patience and the right lens. As I walk the gardens I note flowering bushes, tubular flowers especially, and return to them.

The Desert Garden has cement sidewalks so the technqiue is stand motionless until whirring wings make you alert. This morning I sit behind the target bush. The light will be high and behind the plants and birds. I'm looking to fill the frame with scene and bird, I prefer not to crop or magnify the frame. This means, with the 300mm lens, sit within 6 feet of the flowers and be lighting quick with the lens. Those birds don't hang around long, especially when they see movement and hear a shutter clickclickclick.

Mission pretty well accomplished. The majority of fotos are full frame. Many of these are suitable for printing. Printing is time-intensive, so one of these days I'll not go to the botanical gardens in search of the perfect hummingbird foto. 

That perfect foto is out there where memories wait for a piece of photographic paper to anchor them to this earth. I have one, a perfect foto. It's that moment Barbara smiles clear-eyed just before she goes out to build a lifetime's memories and she did good, that young woman. She's out there, too.

I breathe, hold it. Briefly exhale. Ándale pues. It shoulda been different.

Photographer's Notebook. Chicano Photography is a lot like Anglo Photography. Anglos take Anglo photos. Chicanos take Chicano Fotos. I use a Canon T2i with a Canon 70-300mm lens. ISO4800, 1/4000s. Setting shutter priority as fast as the camera operates produces pleasing action-stopped moments. The aperture varies. A long lens at near distances will usually blur backgrounds. Images you need to blow-up often have too deep a focus, e.g. the full-frontal Allen's leading Day Two.


Barbara Garcia said...

Your love for Barbara is so clear. Your story & pictures are truly touching.

Barbara Garcia said...

Your love for Barbara is so clear. Your story & pictures are truly touching.

Alma Luz Villanueva said...

I love these photos, you're a Beauty Hunter (me too).