Each April I return to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont for the spring photography workshop led by the fabulous Bill Lea. While it’s largely a family reunion for me and I love spending time with people who constantly inspire me, I also look forward to honing my photography skills when I’m there.
At the Tremont workshops (both spring and autumn), I’m notorious for my love of macro work and penchant for wallowing in the dirt for shots of the micro-worlds of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s my photographic wheelhouse, so-to-speak. To a fault.
So imagine my panic when I got into the field at this year’s workshop and I realized my macro lens wouldn’t focus! I was a figurative deer-in-the-headlights to say the least and there may have been some minor hyperventilating. As my initial bewilderment subsided, it dawned on me—I’d dropped it off my kitchen bar a few weeks earlier in a rush to get out the door to the airport. I hadn’t ended up needing the lens for my work in that time so I completely forgot the mishap.
Sitting behind my camera in a bed of moss, I finally mustered the gumption to hold the lens to my ear and gave it a little shake. There was a heart-sinking rattle. Lenses aren’t supposed to rattle. I got up and walked in a daze towards my buddies to tell them the news. They were quite sympathetic, of course. And understood the implications for me in particular.
That night, my friends Tom and Steve tried to find a way to get a new macro lens to me so I could have something for the workshop. I was drawn into the idea at first, partly because I couldn’t imagine life without my beloved macro lens.
After some processing time though, I opted to embrace the challenge to my photography rather than scramble for a new lens. It would force me to look at my workshop experience from a new perspective and expand how I see and shoot. I convinced myself to look at my lack of macro lens as a new opportunity rather than a missed one, even though I’ll admit it took some time to fully accept.
That’s not to say I didn’t manage to use my 14-140mm zoom lens in a macro capacity in some cases. But here’s what I came away with after deciding to accept my situation and not waste a bunch of time and energy fast-tracking a new macro lens.
I did manage to spend a good bit of time in my other guilty “wheelhouse” pleasure: infrared photography. Sometimes baby steps toward change are ok, right?
And now for your moment of green…