The reward for saving a robin

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about taking pictures in Washington Park.  And while I was capturing the beauty of nature in Albany’s green space, I heard the rustling of trapped bird wings – a small robin was caught in discarded fishing line and unable to free itself.  I summoned a park worker to help, and eventually the bird was freed from the tangled trash.

At the time, I was photographing with a role of AGFA Scala 200 film, the last remaining monochrome slide film currently available.  In order to develop this product, I had to send it out to a photo lab in Denver.

Last Thursday, a box of slides arrived at my door.  I went through each slide, hoping for a good shot here or there – AGFA Scala is a tricky film to work with, and if things aren’t dialed in perfectly, then I won’t have any decent photos –

I looked through the slides.  Keep.  Keep.  Toss.  Damn it Chuck, figure out how to focus.  Damn it Chuck, figure out how to use a a proper aperture.  Damn it Chuck –

Wait a second…

I need to scan this shot.

Here’s the raw, unedited shot.

Shot with Leica M3 camera, Summicron 50 lens, AGFA Scala 200 film.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Shot with Leica M3 camera, Summicron 50 lens, AGFA Scala 200 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Wait a second.  I forgot that the fountains at Washington Park were activated, so as to aerate the water and to look rather decorative.  And There’s a duck… and there’s the reflection of a tree in the distance… this almost looks like a vintage postcard.

I put the slide aside.  I went through a few more slides.  There were some keepers, some tossers, some more keepers.  Of a 36-shot roll, I pulled 28 good pictures.  Yes, there were a few shots I had to toss – memo to self, make sure that the lens is fully extended on the Leica, or it won’t focus properly.  Lost about five shots not realizing this.

But I kept coming back to this picture.  I’ve got the reflection.  I’ve got the waterfowl.  I’ve got the dusty sky and the water fountain and the ripples and the serenity.

Maybe somewhere along the way, this is the photo I was meant to take.  This is the photo that will definitely land some love.  Maybe this a combination of Evan’s camera and the well-wishes of a freed songbird.

Only one way to find out.

Re-scan the slide.

Zoom it out.  Crop the picture so that it will fit within the 16×20 dimensions of a certain photo competition.

Do it.

And here’s what came out.

Mallard in the Wild.  Leica M3 camera, Summicron 50 lens, AGFA Scala 200 film.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
His Morning Excursion. Leica M3 camera, Summicron 50 lens, AGFA Scala 200 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Sometimes the best photos are the simplest.  On those occasions when I don’t need expired wonky Soviet film or funky Russian cameras… sometimes the best shot is to focus, aim, and capture.

And to capture that tiny moment, in a photo that can say more than I could ever imagine saying.

I’m telling you, that “short pile” is getting longer and longer every single day.

And as far as I’m concerned… that’s not a bad thing.

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4 thoughts on “The reward for saving a robin”

  1. Great job saving a life. I wish all humans would help each other instead of fighting and killing.

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  2. That certainly looks like a contender for the competition season. Back in the late 70s when I became interested in photography, I read a book by an expert whose name I have forgotten. One notable quote I remembered was “many great photographs are taken by accident”.

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  3. A good deed! And good photos.
    Yet, somehow, the the summoning the park worker, “Ahoy, park worker,” gave me the giggles – I don’t know why.

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