Sunday, December 11, 2016

Carpe diem for a photographer

This is the story of a man with a camera and bird with a fish in it's talons. They were both hunters of sorts. A part of my job as a photographer for the Kelowna Daily Courier is finding pictures that are not attached to any sort of a story, at our paper we call it enterprising, grab the camera, head out on foot or by car and see what one can find.

 So there I was back in August of 2002 wandering around the north end of the Waterfront Park at Rotary Marshes in Kelowna, BC, on hot summer day, camera in hand wondering what I could photograph for the paper the next day. It was a quiet day with only a few people at the beach or people out walking their dogs enjoying the day, but I had lots of those kind of photos. Then I looked up and saw this osprey with what appeared to be a fish in it's talons. I attached my 80 to 200mm ( plus a 1.4 converter ) to my Nikon DH1 digital camera and zoomed in to get a better look, for sure the osprey had just caught a big fat fish and was taking it back to it's nearby nest where there just happen to be a couple young osprey eagerly waiting a fine fish meal.

 Just as the bird landed on the man-made nest the one of the young birds popped it's heads up to see what mom or dad had brought home. The fish which once lived it's life swimming in the lake was now food for the young osprey. I made a picture of this precise moment, this is what Henri Cartier-Bresson talks about being "The Decisive Moment".

 Later I went back to the office to download and edit through my pictures, the Courier had only switched from film to digital less than a year before. I plugged my card into a card reader at the photo desk in the newsroom, to see what I had photographed. There was really only one choice in terms of timing with the osprey landing on the nest. When one of my editors walked past the computer monitor, he said something like "Nice photo!".

 The next day the photo ended up on page three in black and white with a headline under the photo that said "Carpe diem" ( roughly translated to seize the day ). That day and the days after the paper received a lot of reader reaction with phone calls and a strong demand for reprints which we offered at the time for a reasonable fee. One of those calls was from a fellow by the name of Joe Yamaguchi, Joe was very kindly man and very enthusiastic about my osprey photo, he simply loved it. Joe also wanted a big print, bigger than what was normally offered by the Courier which was 8 x 10 inches in size. So after getting approval from the powers that be at the Courier, I went looking for a place in town who would print it for me at 16 x 20 inches, I took the digital file on a DVD to Photography West who printed it for me. I chose Somerset velvet as the paper of choice a beautiful mat surface paper. The print looked fabulous, it actually came out looking much better than I thought it would, being that the Nikon's digital sensor was only 2.75 megapixel in size.

 The story doesn't stop here. After giving Joe his print, he was so impressed that he gave his print to a good friend of his, who he had mentioned on the phone during one of our conversations, when he first mentioned his name I had not initially recognized the name, John Kenneth Galbraith ( who passed away in 2006 ). Mr. Galbraith was a well known economist who served in the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. John Kenneth was living in Cambridge Massachusetts where Harvard University is located and was also born in Canada.

 Joe phoned me again, asking for another print the same size, as he had given the print he had to his friend Mr. Galbraith. I ordered another big print and when that was done sent the print off to Mr. Yamaguchi.

 In the meantime Mr. Galbraith was so impressed with my osprey photo, he though it should be in what was then called the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, its now called the Harvard Art Museums which include, the Fogg Museum (established in 1895), the Busch-Reisinger Museum (established in 1903), and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum (established in 1985). Mr. Galbraith donated his copy to the Fogg Art Museum that meant I made another big print for Mr. Galbraith for himself personally. This time communicated with Mr.Galbraith directly and we also corresponded through letters for some time afterwards. I eventually received a letter from the Fogg Art Museum confirming that my osprey photo was officially accepted by the institution and that it had been donated by John Kenneth Galbraith.

 I would have to say that this photo has been one of the most popular photos with the general public I have ever taken in my 40 year career as a newspaper photographer. The photo went on to sell upwards of $2000 worth of reprints for the Courier.

 I think I was truly able to "seize the day" when I made this photo and perhaps for the osprey too as we were both hunting for something but with different objectives in mind.

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