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.

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.

Embracing New Adventures

They are packing and are moving to Cedaredge with me.

The end of this year and the beginning of the new year brings many adventurous changes in my life and hopefully for yours. I’ve always told friends that the only fear I have is remaining the same tomorrow as I am today. Perhaps, this is why I’ve been a risk-taker my entire life.

I’m moving very soon from Grand Junction, Colorado to my new mountain home in Cedaredge, Colorado where the Grand Mesa’s southern slopes meet the Uncompahgre and Gunnison River valleys. The charming mountain town offers friendly neighbors, orchards, and access to dozens of trout lakes. I love that the town has only one traffic signal and just a few historic downtown blocks of diverse small businesses.

Late fall brings bushels of apples on the town’s many trees. The large apple tree in my backyard brings dozens of deer to nibble on the apples. I look forward to connecting with them and taking some photographs to share. This past October, I attended the annual Applefest held at the Cedaredge Town’s Park within walking distance from my new home. Applefest brings over 20,000 people and it is free to attend. I had an amazing time visiting the over 200 vendors, wonderful music, and tasting the delicious food.

Cedaredge genuinely feels like stepping into a Hallmark movie with a sense of community, natural beautiful surroundings, and a wonderful quality of life. Yes, I know, I’m a hopeless romantic, and I do enjoy the Hallmark Christmas movies this time of year. I can believe in experiencing the magic of Christmas. Seriously, wouldn’t you want to have this pleasure? Moving to Cedaredge means I can have the pleasure all year long.  I believe in sharing community with compassion. Today I arranged to volunteer as a server for the Cedaredge Christmas dinner this year. Over 300 people are expected. The cost is a donation but not required. The dinner location is within walking distance of my new home.

Just 15 minutes or so from the town on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byways there are old-growth forests, aspens, meadows and 300 beautiful lakes that lead to the Grand Mesa mountain. I’m planning on taking countless color digital and black and white film photographs of wildlife and nature throughout the four seasons to share. This is one of the reasons I wanted to move to Cedaredge.

One immediate change is that I am honoring my values and principles and I am closing out my Facebook accounts effective today. For a while now, I have been concerned about the direction the Facebook company is moving. From the company’s reactions rather than responses to the community’s trust concerns, I do not believe that Facebook will institute necessary positive changes anytime soon. Nevertheless, I’ll share on this blog, the same positive posts I have on Facebook.

I am encouraging my supportive friends on Facebook to connect and follow me by registering on this blog. You’ll receive an email notice every time I share a new post on the blog. You can now view photographs that I have frequently posted on FB for many years on my photography website at Stephen Bruno Photography. My newest photographs are in the Recent Photo Shoot gallery. The benefit is rather than a select few images I’ve posted on Facebook, you can now see many more images from my photo shoot.

Next year is the time I plan to publish several novels, nonfiction books and poetry, and short stories that I’ve been working on for an eternity. Well, at least it seems that way. I know that I have more wrinkles, less hair, and more bags under my eyes than when I began these books. The beautiful charming mountain atmosphere, wild critters, and friendly people can contribute to my creativity and productivity.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.

~Gilbert K. Chesterton 1874-1936, British Author

Showdown at High Noon

The Year: The Wild West ’70’s.

The Location: In the middle of an empty, dusty wood deck outside an abode in the valley on the outskirts of a western town.

The Time: Nearing when the clock strikes high noon.

Years ago, I lived in California where I owned a mountain home in a rural area called the Valley of Enchantment. It certainly was enchanting for my Miniature Dachshund companion, Quincy. You may have previously read my blog posts about Quincy and his amazing adventures. By popular request, I am sharing another true tale.

The two-story structure had a wood deck that looked out the back door and wrapped around one side of the house above the basement, leading to stairs that climbed to the street.

One very cold crisp, winter afternoon I observed Quincy beginning his “afternoon constitutional” along the deck on the way to the stairs when he suddenly stopped and gazed up towards the road beyond my view.

I cautiously peeked around the corner behind him and observed a large Mastiff dog riding into view and stopping at the at the top of the stairs surveying the deck and Quincy with an intense stare. He may have been new in town but clearly, this Mastiff was no stranger to showdowns.

Dachshunds were bred to flush out Badgers and can be fearless with other animals. Nonetheless, Quincy was about a quarter of the size of this self-assured Mastiff and he was thoughtfully weighing his options.

They each found their center of gravity and squarely faced each other from a distance like gunslingers of the Old West.  From a decision to call the bluff and with an air of confidence, the Mastiff began to slowly and deliberately descend the first step of the stairs, leading straight to where Quincy firmly held his ground.

Then, both of them stepped forward five paces, their toenails clicking on the wood deck with every step, and locked in focused eye contact. Each of them must be thinking, “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.”

Within a few heart-pounding minutes, the low deep growl of the Mastiff broke the silence. Nevertheless, Quincy stood his ground silently breathing heavily and bound by a personal code of honor to protect the homestead. It was difficult to tell who was standing their ground best for several minutes until the water vapor from the heavy exhaling cleared the cold air and I could once again see this stalemate.

Then, Bruno, (yes, I know, he was my namesake – and, trust me he never complained), my unusually large Great Dane, came from behind me unbeknown to Quincy locking eyes with the Mastiff who stood on the stails smaller by about a head.

Long seconds passed.

When the Mastiff slowly began backing up the stairs, Quincy became bolder and started growling with an occasional bark for good measure as he took small paces forward toward the stairs.

The Mastiff glanced at Quincy like the morsel he could be, but never losing eye contact with Bruno, who was so intimating that he didn’t need to move or to make a sound. I was curious to learn what was going to happen next. You can never predict what is going to happen in a showdown.

Taking advantage of the Mastiff’s sudden distraction, Quincy chased his adversary back up the remainder of the stairs and halfway down the road and out of town just as the clock strikes high noon.

When Quincy strode purposefully back to the deck seeing me standing there alone, his chest was so puffed out that I thought it might burst from pride. He may not have worn a ten-gallon hat or handcrafted boots with spurs but he walked like he was ten feet tall.

He never knew the influential support he received from Bruno. Nevertheless, from that day forward Quincy effectively chased away every big or small animal including a Black Bear cub, large dogs, deer, a family of Racoons, and a Coyote.  To watch the dramatic change in him, you’d think he was backed up by a pack of wolves. All that made the difference was his having belief in himself.