Being Aware and Observant
Noticing small changes, cues, and details can have huge benefits
Text and photos by LensAfield
I was walking around this particular park with the specific intention to “see” and capture images of things almost no one else who uses the park would. I departed from the paved walking path and headed to the top of the 15-foot-high berm that was created to act as a noise and visual buffer between the park and the major 6-lane highway it was built close to.
The berm top featured a line of pine trees that were producing a prolific amount of pine cones. The visual texture of the small cones attracted my attention.
I was looking at the first tree in the line. I started taking some photos to capture the entire small tree, then moved in to get some mid-distance shots to show the pine cones on its branches, then in tight for close-up shots to capture the interesting, intricate design of the cones. The ground immediately around the tree was firm and level with no obvious hazards. I was sidestepping my way around the tree as I was looking up, noticing different visual perspectives, and taking shots as I did.
Then I took a step and noticed the ground felt a bit soft under my right foot. I stopped, moved my foot, and looked down.
At first glance, what I saw didn’t consciously register as being hazardous, or of any concern. But I did a double take and noticed an interesting small patch of something with a brownish pattern embedded into the surface of the ground. As I bent over and took a closer look at whatever it was, I remember thinking it looked like it could be a bit of molted snakeskin.
The visual texture of the scene was interesting. The little diamond-shaped patch of whatever was surrounded as if framed by some browned grass clipping from the recent mowing of the park grounds. For no particular reason, I decided to take a picture.
So I bent directly over the patch again, framed my closeup shot, made my camera settings, and began to focus. That’s when I noticed an eye staring at me.
I instantly jumped back, startled. I guess my brain surmised in an instant that the eye was on something very much alive, and if it was a hidden coiled snake, I was bent over it with my face and hands about a foot and half from it. My body responded before I fully realized why. When I regained my composure, I realized, thankfully, I did not require an underwear change.
So I backed off several feet and watched. Nothing came out. I cautiously went closer and started shooting as I did, just in case whatever it was got spooked and decided to bolt. When I was only a few feet away I could see that the scene had since changed. The little patch had opened up quite a bit and I could see more than two eyes, oddly configured. I realized I was looking at more than one still-unidentified “somethings” in the ground. The somethings had fur. Despite my closing presence, they weren’t budging.
Now my rational, conscious brain kicked in and began to figure it out. Brown fur, more than one creature, not budging, barely below the surface of the ground, mostly buried in the grass and grass clippings…baby cottontail rabbits!
Sure enough, I could see more of their fur and could identify noses and immature ears. I counted three. They remained pretty much immobile, eyes never blinking. When they did move, it was to attempt to get deeper into the grass as I got on my knees, moving around, taking my time getting some close-up shots from a foot or so away.
Before I left them alone and continued on my walk around, I stepped about 30 feet away and took a couple of general locating shots.
I had originally approached this tree from the other side but I wondered if I would have noticed the rabbits if I had approached from this angle. Maybe, maybe not…probably not because the grounds were littered with streaks and clumps of drying grass clippings. Another clump wouldn’t have made me think it was possibly used to almost entirely cover the simple divot that is a typical rabbit’s nest. If I hadn’t half-stepped on the nest and paid attention to the sense I had that the “ground” felt odd, I likely never would have noticed it.