Spring is here! At last the weather is warm, winter gear is no longer necessary, days are longer. There is also a plethora of outdoor activities that present themselves. Long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in State Parks, bicycling along trails, and when the Covid quarantine lifts, there will be outdoor café visits with friends. In the land of 10,000 Lakes, we also await the thaw of all the waterways. Along with that there’s an increase in various flora, fauna, ichthyoids, and testudines. No, that doesn’t have anything to do with male anatomy. Less formally, testudines are turtles. Ever since Dr. Seuss opined about Yurtle and his hard shelled friends, I have been in love with the domed creatures.
One of my hobbies is to visit various lakes to find them. Back when it was permissible, I even owned a couple of them. Fact is, turtles are adorable. I love everything about them. Their shiny, faceted shells that gleam in the sun. Their splayed paws with the long fingernails, their ability to hold their breath underwater. I’m in awe of their ability to sleep without breathing for an entire season. Don’t even get me started on how magnificent sea turtles are!
In pursuing my love of turtles, I often go in search of a peek at them basking in the sun. Turtles sun themselves on logs near the shoreline of ponds and some smaller lakes. The sight of them laying in a row or stacked upon each other is more endearing than I can say. I have spent hours walking slowly along trails and through shoreline undergrowth to catch a glimpse of dark half circles lined up on a tree branch in the water.
To preserve my citings and to share them as well, I purchased a new camera that has a very long lens. Alas, while I love looking at turtles, they aren’t always fond of my approaching them. Typically what happens is a very soft ‘plop’ into the water and the silent ripples that follow. This occurs more frequently earlier in the spring when the turtles are re-acclimating themselves to the world outside their muddy den below the surface. When they lose their camera shyness, I have been able occasionally to take pictures of them sitting in all their glory. I was using the camera on my phone. This is a perfectly serviceable piece of photographic equipment, but it was difficult to get close up. So I bought the new camera.
It came with a camera bag, two lenses, one of which would surely enable me to see the turtles painted undersides at long range. In addition to the camera, the lenses and the equipment bag, I also own a tri-pod. With all that paraphernalia and my trusty waterproof hiking boots, I imagined myself as intrepid a naturalist as David Attenborough. For my first outing with the new gear, I wanted to prepare my camera, lenses, and the tripod to be ready for any photos that I’d be quick enough to catch. I got everything out, laid it out on my kitchen table in neat rows and put the camera bag on a chair out of the way. So exciting, so professional. I have to admit, there were images of being a famous turtle photographer dancing in my head.
Holding the camera in my left hand, I got out the instruction book. My primary objective was to understand how to set up for the long range close-ups. Feeling very proud of myself for having saved the instructions, and being humble enough to realize I needed the instructions, I flipped to the first page. It was all in Spanish. Not to be dissuaded, I flipped to the back, thinking the English instructions would be on the reverse side. Nope, just Spanish. While I remember a few phrases from 6th grade Spanish, I am by no means fluent enough to interpret a camera manual. There I was, the sunshine of Spring abounding and a camera that I wasn’t sure how to use. I was devastated. After a few moments of chagrin, I resigned myself to trial and error with the new lens. Maybe I could get a shot of turtles worth looking at.
Where was the English manual? I have no idea. I had purchased the camera over the winter and fastidiously thrown out all the packing materials and anything that seemed unnecessary. What did this teach me about photographs of turtles? Nothing. I did learn that I don’t have to listen to others when they insist on that it’s important to throw out things you don’t need.