On the Bayou

It was still dark when the alarm went off. The last time I took my camera and headed out to meet a sunrise I was in Zanzibar. In fact that is when I learned about how precious the early morning light is to good photography. Its funny how sunrises and sunsets have come to remind me of Fern and Ali my photography gurus. Normal people must feel the pull of a emotional even romantic tether at these times but lately I only feel the pull of cameras, long lenses and compositions.
I am new to the world of photography or more accurately to watching the world go about its business thru a glass lens. So camera in hand, this morning i ride my bicycle along the Bayou (water channels) in Houston just as the early rays are streaking overhead. Every so often I lay my bike down, pull out my camera and peer down the chute of the zoom lens. This morning's outing is unplanned so I don't know what I am looking for. I know this much: I love sunrise enthusiasts. 

There's a lady lighting up a cigarette or something more exotic in her 2nd floor balcony. She's 
yelling at someone else over her shoulder but her eyes are trained on the sunrise. She looks sleepy and I cant tell if she stayed up to greet the dawn or woke up for it. I stand back to take a picture of her in that dim balcony. I find myself looking around guilty-ly. Am I infringing on her private space? Indeed, I am far removed from her and without a zoom lens there would be no picture. Is this like stalking? Would someone mistake me for a detective or policeman? As I process these unsettling notions its clear to me how easy it is for anyone with a big lens to take pictures and document things without being noticed. I feel like a sniper who's traded in his rifle for a 'Cannon'!
Then, I pass a couple who are running together. This is a man and wife who are sticking to their resolutions. He's working hard in sweaty black shorts while jogging alongside his more-at-ease spouse. His wife has coordinated her pink cap with her pink halter-top which is sticking to her pink back as it glistens with sweat. They are not talking but are obviously comfortable with each other. 

...Oh Jeez, I almost run into a large lady, speaking expressively into her headphones while her gold tinged corn-rows sway and fight against the bind that holds them. She wears a purple shirt and black tights with purple hems to match. She isn't sweating but I get the feeling that any moment her caller will make her mad, raise her blood pressure and her workout will begin. On four parallel wires running overhead sit a school of birds. Beautiful black-colored birds with shapely long necks. I promise myself I will google their identity when I get home. Throwing the bike down on the grass, I pop-off the lens cover and squeeze the trigger on the camera. Nice...their silhouettes against the pinkish sky. I wish I had a bigger zoom lens so I could get a little closer to the intimate conversations they're having on that wire. Out of habit I look down to review the picture on the camera screen and it looks so much like a music sheet with wires drawing the lines on the paper and the birds forming the notes!
The light is at its best now, about ten or less minutes before the fireball rises. Down at the bottom of the bayou there are white herons fishing for their breakfast. The sloped concrete walls of the Bayou's water channel rise up 15 feet on either side at a steep 70 degree incline. Grassy banks rise a further 15 feet so the bottom is about 30 feet below where I stand. A strong, small stream runs continuously at the bottom carrying green water, debris and bird-breakfast. Every now and then I hear a splash as a fish jumps out of the water and lands back in. This is so cool. It breaks the surface, rises a full two or three feet toward the sky before splashing back down. Could it be another enthusiast trying to check out the sunrise, or an up-streaming salmon that's lost its way in this bayou or just a wicked fish with a sense of humor who's messing with the hunting herons nearby? I secretly hope its the wicked one...!
As I walk camera in one hand and bicycle in the other I pass a short Chinese grandma going in the same direction. Her face is hidden under a wide-brimmed hat and oversized shades. She looks straight ahead and takes practiced steps. "Hello", I say and receive a hint of a non-verbal acknowledgement as her head turns ever so slightly. I quickly forget about her as I move forward and document the sunrise. When a few minutes later she catches up to me once again, she looks curiously at my camera-related antics and smiles a wide grinned hello! I feel at once that magic which is conjured-up by the friendly smile of a stranger. Channeling Louis Armstrong, I think to myself, ... what a wonderful world!

09/04/2016 Houston


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