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Trying New Things

A little tale about getting dirty and having fun.

“@#&*!$@ DEER FLIES! Really, what the @#*! was God thinking when He created them?”

Up since 5am, laying on my belly on the beach, drenched in sea water, covered in sticky sand, and being attacked by deer flies and mosquitos… not the way most people would choose to spend their vacation, but most people wouldn’t be this crazy, obsessive-compulsive photographer.

That’s right, a weekend away in Galveston with just my dog for company. Long walks at sunset (Spanky is such a romantic!), a lounge chair and a good book, quiet evenings with a glass of wine listening to the soothing sound of the waves… (Insert needle screeching across the grooves of a record)… Yeah, that type of getaway is for sane people. For me, it’s getting up before the crack of dawn, inhaling a quick bite and a cup of coffee, grabbing my gear, jumping in my car, racing the sun to my chosen destination, and dragging myself home in the late afternoon tired, sore, bitten, and hopefully with a memory card full of great photos.

I have spent many adventures photographing wildlife in Galveston, so this trip I decided to take it up a notch and only visit new places. Several of my photography friends have been doing some ground level photography along the beach at Bolivar Flats, and it seemed like something worth trying out. The tools are pretty simple: just a ground pod, a 12”ish disc to hold your camera while you lay and shoot on the ground allowing for an “eye level” vantage point to photograph subjects. I’m not always the most frugal girl on the block, but when I searched for pods and discovered that they were $100, I decided I could make something cheaper. So, I purchased a frying pan at the store for $14 and asked my husband to take off the handle, drill a hole in the center, epoxy a bolt that will hold a head (not a chopped off and bloody body part, but something to mount my camera on), and put a little piece of rubber around the bolt to keep everything secure. Always one to love a project, he had my new invention assembled in 10 minutes flat!

The evening before heading to Bolivar Flats, I tried out my homemade ground pod on the beach where I was staying. “I can do this!” I thought. Okay, I need to insert a little tidbit here… I don’t like to get dirty, and I really don’t like sand. I know, it goes against everything that should make up a beach loving girl, but given a choice, I would rather walk along a beach then lay on it ’cause sand is just so, well, sandy. It’s sticky, it’s gritty, and it just gets everywhere!! So, you can imagine just how far it was out of my comfort zone to plan an adventure where laying in the (potentially wet) sand played an integral part.

With the sun just coming up, I made my way down the beach. As luck would have it, I ran into the pod shooting photography legend and guru, Tim Timmis (check out his Facebook page; he’s amazing), who kindly agreed to let me tag along after him and show me the ropes. Finding a good spot, we settled into the sand and started shooting. It quickly became apparent that things weren’t going as planned. The deer flies and mosquitos had decided I would make a tasty breakfast, the vest harness I was wearing to carry my camera was getting caked with sand, the fanny pack I use to carry my essentials was determined to become a belly pack and was also getting caked with sand, my ground pod weighed a ton and was digging into the sand every time I moved making it difficult to maneuver, my camera was getting sand all over it, and, well, I was getting really, really wet and really, really sandy. But, I hiked up my big girl (wet and sandy) panties and started shooting. The sunrise was stunning, and bird life was overwhelming with avocets, pelicans, plovers, herons, egrets, skimmers, terns, and gulls flying across the beach and in front of my lens and putting on an amazing show.

An hour later, soaking wet, covered in sand from head to foot along with camera to gear, my body aching, and elbows soar and raw from using them as stabilizers in the sand and shells, I decided it was time to call it a day… feeling pretty proud of myself for getting so far out of my comfort zone and conquering this form of photography. My moment of proudness was quickly shattered when Tim mentioned, “You know, with the tide so high we didn’t get nearly as mucky as we usually do.” Gee, thanks, Tim!

“How did your photoshoot go?” my friend, Lisa (who is a huge fan of pod shooting) texted me later that day. “Did you wear waders?”

“No waders,” I texted back. “Nylon pants and a t-shirt along with too much gear. Pretty much an exercise in how not to prepare for that type of adventure. But, I got a ton of photos, my elbows are now nicely exfoliated, I know that my homemade ground pod is great in theory but lousy in real world application, and next time I’ll just bring less crap! So overall it was a great experience.”

Here’s to trying new things, and hot showers, and sand-free evenings with a glass of wine and my doggy!

About the author

Cheryl Johnson

Cheryl Johnson

Cheryl Johnson has developed quite a following as a wildlife photographer working under the pseudonym “Backyard Bird Nerd.” Her photos have been featured in magazines, websites, and art galleries. As the owner of an advertising agency, writing has always been a part of her life and career. Her literary work has included producing text for websites, brochures, television and radio commercials, and a variety of magazines articles. Delving into the world of children's literature has been an exciting and challenging adventure, and pairing these books with her love of photography has proven to be the perfect outlet for her passions and talents. When not prowling around in nature looking for something to “fly” by her lens, she lives in South Texas with her husband, two daughters, and dog.

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Cheryl Johnson

Cheryl Johnson

P.O. Box 3926
Victoria, Texas 77903

If you would like to see my books or art, please stop by my offices Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm
Outburst Advertising
5003 John Stockbauer, Suite J
Victoria, Texas 77904


Share the Beauty of Nature with Your Child!

Nature is Amazing

These beautiful books by writer and photographer Cheryl Johnson, are designed to not only engage your child but to encourage their imagination, exploration, and discovery of the world around us.