I had the enormous pleasure yesterday of heading down the road to welcome in the trail riders, who make the annual journey from their respective starting points (some of which are as much as 200 miles away!), to downtown H-town for the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
It appeals to the kid in me. A lot that we learned as kids shapes the way we see and react to the world as adults. For example, as a kid I was always taught to respect my "elders and betters". I got a good lesson in how that teaching can manifest itself in the behavior of well healed adults while I was out at the parade today.
I was out on the parade route with my camera gear to see if I could capture a few special moments. I had the whole rig out there...a backpack full of lenses and accessories, and my trusty Nikon D3 with the 80-200mm lens attached. It is a formidable rig - but hey...I am a formidable guy! I was down there with a couple of friends, and a couple of folks that I met who were taking photos of this event for the first time. They all had very nice camera gear, which I am sure generated photos as good or better than anything that I could generate.
It's just that these cameras were ...smaller.
I am not braggin'...I'm just sayin'.
When the riders came into sight, we all took up station where we felt we could get the images that we wanted. After taking multiple test shots from different locations I ended up in a position that just happened to be downstream of the rest of the group that I started out with. I would watch the people react to the rest of the group as they raised their cameras to take their shots. Some of the riders waved politely , some even posed for a shot while guiding their horses and buggies down the thoroughfare. But none of them really went out of their way to be photographed by the group because they knew that they needed to save their energy for the TV cameras and crowds that were waiting for them on the parade route.
Then they saw me...and my D3.
The camera and lens together weigh about 8 lbs. When you lift it and point it at someone, thoughts of an RPG launcher come to mind to most men. But to pretty ladies and inquisitive kids, riding in their first parade...well they think something entirely different! They think that they are going to end up on the cover of the local daily rag , smiling up at millions of readers who could have been at the parade - if they had taken the time. Some of these readers might be friends or loved ones who will be blissfully ignorant of the fact that one of theirs participated in this grand event...and this picture will be the link that will allow them to tell stories again and again about this experience of their lifetime.
I watched a child sitting in the bag of a wagon (clearly tired and bored and making sure everyone knew it!) look at the camera with a blank face for a couple of frames. I took my eye from behind the camera and gave her an understanding smile...and a wink, She returned the smile, until it warmed up the space we shared - and then I took her picture again. It made my day...I think it didn't hurt hers either.
And then there was this fella - I honestly tried to get his attention to pose him for a shot that I saw. But his gaze and attention were transfixed by something on the road ahead. Maybe it was just the realization that he had made it. They were at the end of a long road of experiences that he could share with his family and friends for the rest of his life. The big camera didn't impress him, and there was nothing better about me or anyone else that might point a camera at him today. He had all he needed...peace...and it would be up to me and capture the scene. I saw him smile from the depths of his soul...and I took this shot.
I don't think I let him down.
7 more days to Santa Fe. Keep the faith.