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LIGHT ON THE EARTH

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Quite unpredictably and infrequently life deals us perfect moments. These deeply personal events sparkle so brightly that our hearts flutter, we draw a breath, our eyes widen and we are engulfed by a surge of awe.  They can be ignited by a smell, a touch, sounds such as words or music, or by the sight of something beyond the vision of our everyday lives.  Occassionally it is a blend of these sensual responses, but for most, often it is our eyes that carry the moment to our hearts. What adds to the beauty of these rare and precious events is that they cannot be created. Even with all your desired components assembled and choreographed in a determined space and time you cannot fabricate perfection.  Favourite T-shirt, favourite song, partner, perfume, place, in sunshine or rain or rainbow . . . it just won’t work!  Not without the essential ingredient of surprise to fire the magic which catches us off guard and crashes us  into an instant where we can briefly believe in perfection.

There are parallels between this phenomenon and great photography. And a paradox too. The former is that photographers crave perfection, they engage in a lifelong, lens-led struggle to arrange moments where all the technical and creative skills they have learned coincide with a series of events to produce a record of these unique split seconds in theirs and all our lives.  Unless you have pursued such a quest then you cannot imagine the pain of its failure. That agony fuelled by dissatisfaction which has them out again refuting their success to chase another collision of their chosen elements. The paradox is, that whilst they repeatedly fail to see that perfection themselves, they pass it on to us to marvel at. And this book is testament to this fact because here is a remarkable collection of perfect moments. Distilled from a rich lode, recorded by the world’s most diligent, determined, ferociously self-critical photographers, here is an extraordinary catalogue of tiny fractions of our beautiful planet’s time. I wonder, flicking through these  pages of images, how many seconds would pass if we summed all of the exposures, all the 1/1000’ths, 1/500‘ths; all the 1/125ths, 1/60ths and so on. What do you think?  Less than twenty for sure, fifteen, or less than ten?  Consider this as you examine these pictures that command so much attention, that generate so much emotion, so much wonder... that they are all that remain of less than ten seconds of light reflected from subjects from all corners of our earth. All of this in so little time, all those things, living things, in all those places, doing so much.

Imagine then all the time it took to learn the skills, acquire the equipment, travel to and from and back again, all the hours, the lifetimes spent focused upon the convergence between photographer and these places so that when it got close to that moment, the eye did not wander, the finger did not falter, the shutter didn’t shiver and the artists was able to burn an image on a frame of chemical covered plastic. Of course they have been rewarded, in cash, in kudos, with kind words, flattery, praise, respect and have again by having their work included in this pantheon of wildlife photography. Okay, some have inflated egos, a few are smug, but most wildlife photographers are driven, not by the trappings of any applied success, but by the brutal task of trying to capture nature’s beauty in perfect pictures.

How cruel it is then that the very thing that energises this special clan is so necessarily denied them forever, and how fortunate we are that they allow us to relish their perfect failures!

 

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