The Opposable Thumb

 

The day after thumb surgery 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Perhaps you’ve heard about the opposable thumb that we humans share to a degree with all primates. I have known this relationship with primates since I was a child. Of course, as a naturalist, I understood the importance of the opposable thumb. However, it took an unexpected injury to learn just how significant our opposable thumb is to us, humans.

One morning I awoke intent on performing my countless routine tasks and getting out in nature to photograph wildlife. I quickly realized that whenever I moved the thumb of my dominant right hand in a specific direction or touched something too hard, I experienced intense pain.

I can’t recall having a trauma that created this unexpected situation. I had recently moved to a charming small mountain town and for the first time in many years had to shovel snow on my driveway. I thought maybe that was the cause, but I don’t remember the thumb being painful soon after the snow shoveling. I can’t think of anything that had occurred within a few weeks of the pain that I had done to create this condition.

I could not easily turn the key on and off my vehicle, write using a pen or pencil, brush my teeth, open jars, and at least twenty other normal activities. It soon became apparent that how this occurred was not as important as how it had suddenly and dramatically changed my life.

The intensity of the pain was distracting, to say the least not to mention how restrictive my life had suddenly become. I’m certain that if any of you have experienced what I’ve described some of this is not new to you. Each day I am amazed at the new tasks that I could no longer do without pain.

This month I had surgery on my thumb, and I continue to encourage healing. I remain optimistic in my prognosis.

Throughout all of this and in spite of the pain and definite limitations, the majority of my thoughts are a wondrous curiosity about the power and influence of our opposable thumb and how vital it is in our daily life. How could I have missed this obvious awareness?

Perhaps, it’s true that we don’t fully appreciate something until we no longer have it. I will look at other aspects of my life that I’ve taken for granted with equal dismissal.

Unapologetic Hippie

Stephen Bruno while photographing wildlife and nature.

I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. 
Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken

Recently I visited the local medical office which included a nurse drawing blood for routine tests.

During the procedure, she noticed my shoulder-length hair, beard, and loose-fitting clothes.

She asked with a measure of innocence and curiosity, “Are you a Hippie?”

I smiled and responded, “Yes, I’m an unapologetic Hippie.”

I still favor long hair and casual, often unconventional, dress including tie-dyed shirts with peace signs. I continue to wear a beard and long ago gave up my Birkenstocks sandals. I gave them to a woman to share how it felt to ‘be in my shoes.’ I adopted a strict vegan diet based on unprocessed foods, supported animal rights. and I practiced holistic medicine all of which I am recently revisiting.

I would have attended the 1969 Woodstock Festival near Bethel, New York, from August 15 to 18, 1969, which drew between 400,000 and 500,000 people if I was not already serving my 14-month tour of duty in the U. S. Army in Vietnam.

Some hippies “sold out” and became part of the materialist, culture. I’ve done my best not to sell out. I still embrace the Hippie values of peace, love, compassion,  idealism, and Zen philosophy. I believe in trade or barter and sliding scale fees.

Like Frank Zappa, I avoided drugs and preferred the “natural high,” through photography, writing, listening to music, dancing, camping, and other natural activities.

I am old enough to have earned every wrinkle in my face, puffy eyes, scar on my body, all the silver in my receding hair, and nose marks from my eyeglass frames.

And yes, I remain an unapologetic Hippie.

 

Horror Novel

Horror Novel 2019 © Stephen Bruno

As many of you are aware, one of my passions is photography and especially wildlife photography which I’ve been doing for over fifty years. An even bigger passion is my love of writing especially fiction which, according to my older sister, I was writing short stories at four years old making it over sixty years of writing. I am continuing to complete several novels and a few nonfiction books this year.

With my knowledge as a wildlife photographer and naturalist, I am writing a new Horror Novel beginning with the sighting of wildlife predators congregating around the town park by a man walking his dog. Then frightening strange unspeakable things began to happen in the dead of night.

Loving My New Home Town

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Historic Downtown Cedaredge 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I love the charming small mountain community with its three blocks of historic downtown, one traffic signal, minimal traffic, two banks, a community art center, shops, restaurants, Cedaredge Town Park, and about 2,266 residents to mention a few wonderful things.

Cedaredge Town Park 2019 © Stephen Bruno

It has been a little over a month since I relocated to the Cedaredge, Colorado at an elevation of 6,264 feet, and my friends have inquired about how things are working out. They know that one of the primary reasons for moving to the mountains was that as a wildlife photographer I wanted to connect with and photograph the diverse wildlife and nature.

Mule Deer Buck 2019 © Stephen Bruno

It snowed the morning that I moved into my new home and there was a large Mule Deer Buck that casually walked across the street as the movers unloaded the truck. Later in the afternoon, a family of Mule Deer Does and Fawns came by to welcome me as I connected with them and took a few quick photographs. It was wonderful that the wildlife visited me first.

Mule Deer family 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Nearly every day I have enjoyed being visited in my backyard by a friendly Mule Deer family.

Mule Deer Fawns 2019 © Stephen Bruno

I loved connecting with and photographing these two adorable, affectionate Mule Deer Fawns who came together and were eating the last of the apples from the tree in my backyard in between cuddling.

American Robin 2019 © Stephen Bruno

American Robin 2019 © Stephen Bruno

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of numerous American Robins who visited me in my backyard.

When the weather allows me to travel higher up the Grand Mesa, I plan on sharing time with the Black Bears, Mountain Lions, Moose, Mule Deer, Bald Eagles, and other animals and birds that make the mountain their home and taking their photographs at the more than 300 lakes.

 

Baby Stephen

Baby Stephen, at Humane Society of Ventura County

I received a wonderful early Christmas gift by email with this photograph this afternoon from a good friend.

The message said:

Donations were made in your name at Rancho Relaxo for Baby Stephen, at Humane Society of Ventura County for the animals affected by fires and, one hundred trees were planted in your name. Knowing you, this is closer to your heart than any material gift.

How touching to know that the potbellied piglet is cared for at the shelter and adoption Humane Society of Ventura County and a donation to care for him in my name. I’m going to continue donating for his well-being.

I also value that 100 trees are planted in my name to grow tall and strong for all the forest critters and people to experience.

Teaching the Essence of Wildlife Photography

 

Beaver photographed in darkness across the lake May 2018 © Stephen Bruno

I am frequently asked about my approach to teaching wildlife photography. I have a different perspective on teaching photography classes and workshops. Drawing on my writing, art, and photography background my teaching emphasis is on spontaneous natural creativity and systematic technology.

I believe that it is the craft of ‘process,’ that creates the art of photography. Regardless of the technical acumen, the camera cannot tell the photographer what to include in the composition. No matter how advanced the camera is, it cannot create a connection with the subject nor show when to press the shutter button.

I teach The Essence of Wildlife Photography for beginner, intermediate and newly professional level photography enthusiasts primarily for people with DSLR cameras and compact cameras that offer some setting options. People with point and shoot cameras without setting options will still learn many valuable photography principles.

Included in the easy to learn field instruction on wildlife photography are natural non-threatening wildlife approaches, and camera settings (ISO, white balance, shutter speed, aperture, shooting modes: manual vs. aperture and priority vs. shutter priority, etc.). Instruction also includes learning how to hold the camera steady, obtaining clear images of birds in flight, using a variety of background effects, and creative use of the composition.

I teach wildlife photography in a patient, compassionate, and thorough manner with easy to follow instructions using lecture, demonstration and hands-on approaches tailored to the students. I photograph to be surprised and delighted!

The emphasis is on practical field practice. I share numerous professional tips and techniques from my many years’ experience of wildlife photography from film to digital. Students are encouraged to bring their digital camera, owner’s manual, plenty of charged batteries, and extra storage media.

I have a very relaxed, yet aware personal teaching style that allows me to be present with each participant since I do not have an agenda or itinerary to follow. I do want to inspire their passion, vision, and creativity and motivate them to become the photographer that they desire to be. I want to encourage their photographic inquiries and share knowledge in an easy, flowing, uncomplicated manner. Show students how to see through the eyes of an artist.

In the photography excursions that I facilitate in Cedaredge, Colorado, I know that it is all about the process of relationships that makes a difference in quality photography, including the relationship of connections, process, communication, space, light, and even unfamiliarity.

The camaraderie of other participants is a valuable part of the learning process. Nurturing new friendships that emerge from these classes and workshops. We all learn by different means. Some of us are best with auditory learning, and others learn best by visual means. Fewer prefer both auditory and visual.

Talking about what we are doing as we do it has proven to be an effective approach. Demonstration by example combines both the auditory and visual which is one reason why I take photographs right next to each of the participants and share the reasons for my approach and camera settings.

I photographed the Beaver across the lake in Colorado one evening as the sun set when I was donating my time to teach other Veterans how to photograph wildlife. It was an opportunity to discuss the challenges of photographing wildlife in darkness.

 

 

Preparing for Snow in Cedaredge

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Rescued Mountain Lion 2014 © Stephen Bruno

Somehow, I have managed to live to be 70 years old, and I want to be in as good a condition as I can to continue my passion for wildlife and nature photography. I am looking forward to moving to Cedaredge, Colorado in a few days and I’ve decided to walk every day from my home in Cedaredge and build up my endurance for continuous hiking higher up the mountain later in the new year.

Not having an all-wheel-drive vehicle I need to park and then hike into remote areas to visit some of the lakes. I’m planning on camping and occasionally renting isolated cabins on the Grand Mesa. I want to get up early and observe and photograph the Black Bears, Mountain Lions, Moose, deer, and other wildlife living in the mountains.

Cedaredge is already experiencing some snow, and it could snow on the day I move into my new home. I sense that this will be a heavy snow season. It was time to get some quality snow boots. Today I found Sorel Men’s Conquest Boots that I believe are going to work well for me. They will support me in 3+’ deep snow and -40° conditions while keeping my feet warm and dry. They also will be a benefit during the summer for hiking around the Grand Mesa.

Sorel Men’s Conquest Boots 2018 © Stephen Bruno

I’ll post photographs of my walks around charming Cedaredge and on my visits to the surrounding small towns in addition to my photography adventures on Grand Mesa during each of the seasons here and more images on my Stephen Bruno Photography website.

I photographed the rescued Mountain Lion, who I found to be gentle, at an animal sanctuary and I had the opportunity to connect with it and pet it. I took the image of the new snow boots with my compact camera.