Catching Light

What do you do if you want to go somewhere and your family and friends don't want to or can't get away when you can? Deciding to explore the world on your own can be a daunting prospect. Thoughts of the drawbacks may cycle through your mind: having no one to rely on should problems arise, planning the trip all on your own, being a target because you are solo, table for one most of the time, or the possibility of being lonely.  The perks of being able to do what you want when you want wherever you want look attractive but will it be right for you. It takes a leap of faith to take on the challenge. As with most things — you don't know what you don't know. With a "you won't know until you try it" attitude I took that leap of faith to France a couple of years ago and in the process learned a lot and among many memorable experiences a long afternoon and evening taking in the changing light of Mont Saint-Michel stands out.

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At first sight, the Mont is an impressive and awe-inducing structure. Its size dwarfing the people and vehicles on the bridge. This area is known for extreme tidal fluctuations and upon my arrival the tide was out and the light was muted from the gray sky.

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Boats become stranded on the sand and people can walk in the silty sand, with caution, during low tides.

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I walked up to the Mont on the bridge, explored the town and toured the Abbey taking my time admiring and capturing the almost 360-degree view from the top.

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The afternoon was turning into evening and the sky with billowy clouds was ever-changing. The golden hour was beginning. Different times of day bring different light to subjects. At sunrise and sunset the sun is near the horizon which creates a golden hue and cast long shadows. In the time before and after sunrise and sunset the light changes hue quickly. From blue to pink to gold in the morning and the reverse in the evening.

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The late afternoon sun added a beautiful golden tone to the walls.

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The surrounding countryside isn't immune to the sun's rays.

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The sky wasn't the only thing changing, suddenly, I became aware of the sound of rushing water. The tide was on its way in, and when that tide comes in it surges in. The boats are once again floating on the water as the gold turns to pink.

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The speed of the incoming tide was creating waves.

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Engrossed in the phenomenon, I hadn't noticed the sky beginning to darken when a drop of water hit my cheek. Then another and another and suddenly I was in the middle of a rainstorm. Not yet ready to leave this show of color and water, I pulled out my umbrella and went back to the demonstration of mother nature's extremes. During the rain the lights on the Mont were lit, illuminating  the walls.

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Slowly the golden hour gave way to the blue hour.

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I left to grab some dinner and since I was staying nearby went back to get the full nighttime experience.

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The tide was completely up by this time and the water surrounding the Mont was reflecting the lights.  I said good night to the Mont-Saint-Michel and returned to my hotel. Contemplating my afternoon, I felt blessed and grateful for having taken that five thousand mile leap which landed on the distant shore that day. Being alone allowed me the unscheduled time to linger. If I had waited to go or been with somebody who wasn't willing to stay and let the moments unfold and watch the light change, I would have missed out on the events that October afternoon. I never would have come to the conclusion that the Mont- Saint- Michel is a beautiful subject in all lighting.

What Luck!

Do you know that feeling of joy mixed with luck when you drop the lid to something on the floor and it lands messy side up? Photography can produce that response too. Lately, an osprey is the source of those emotions for me. First time I spotted it was a few months back, while on a bike ride, on the beach path. Approaching the pier where I turn around to head back, I noticed a hulk on top of a light pole. It seemed larger than a seagull and piqued my inner birder.

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I approached the pier and stumbled upon a lifeguard talking with a group, who seemed as interested as I, about the bird. In this makeshift class I learned the bird in question was an osprey (also known as a sea hawk by the way). The lifeguard also mentioned seeing it fishing at times from his vantage point of the tower on the pier. The prospect of this natural phenomenon occurring right on these shores, in this city, in front of my eyes was thrilling. I watched it for a while, but it didn’t go fishing that day. I was regretting my decision to leave my DSLR at home but thinking of the mantra I have heard uttered so many times – the best camera is the one you have with you – I pulled out my phone to capture this sighting.

Fast forward a few months, same ride, with my DSLR this time. I see the same sized hulk on the pole again. Could it be? Yes, it is! An osprey!

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Marveling at my luck at finding the osprey while having my bigger camera in tow, I wait and watch the bird as intently as the bird focuses on the water.

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Suddenly it swoops from its perch and dives towards the surf.

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Jackpot! It arose with a fish in its talons. My luck at being on that pier for that exact moment elicits awe and giddiness. If only the osprey could know its impact by simply going about its daily life.

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It flew out of sight, continuing on past oblivious surfers.

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The next week, same ride, carrying DSLR with a bigger zoom lens this time, I spot it. The osprey is back again!

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It is a sunny day this time and the light coupled with the zoom lens provided the opportunity to capture more details in the eyes and feathers. I think it spotted me.

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The osprey’s presence brings people together in unexpected and pleasant ways. Seems as though pointing your camera towards the sky grabs the attention of others. Many have taken to asking questions and we end up swapping stories of our neighborhood birds. This day, it hung around for a bit staring at the water and preening before flying off into the distance swooping towards the water without catching anything.

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Sometimes we get caught up in our routines; returning to the same locations doing the same things, and there is comfort in that, but it can also feel monotonous. If we take time for awareness, we might notice that even the same places are different from day to day: the lighting, the people, the animals are some of the elements that combine and interact to create a freshness. If you keep an eye out, inspiration can strike at any moment. You may be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, or maybe you always were and just didn’t notice it.

Sending thoughts and prayers to all impacted by the wildfires in California and gratitude  for the firefighters and first responders.

Stay safe,

Susan