Author: Zuniga, Nancy

The Pictures I Didn't Take
Anyone who knows me, knows that I take pictures...and lots of them. I have no training in the art of photography, and don’t know an aperture from an F-stop. But I love pointing and clicking and trying to capture something that might, years later, help to recall the essence of the moment when the picture was taken. When I first started taking pictures forty years ago, I was diligent about writing the name, date, and location on the back of each photograph, and promptly mounting the picture in a photo album along with a caption. Over the years, this became an increasing chore, until finally about fifteen years ago I took to throwing photos in a box, planning to eventually sort them, write detailed information on the back of each one and mount them in albums. My good intentions fell by the wayside, and the box had morphed into two boxes by the time digital cameras became available to the public. Now I can upload photographs to folders in my computer, labeled according to date and event, and when those folders start to accumulate, I save them onto discs. Of course, viewing pictures on a computer disc somehow doesn’t have the same feel to it as browsing through a photo album, but it does take up a lot less space, not to mention saving the cost of film and developing. (As for those two boxes of loose photographs: They’re still waiting in the closet -- a sad testament to my lack of self-discipline.)
I’ve been impressed with many of the pictures submitted to the Photo Gallery by other photographers, especially the close-ups that capture a fleeting expression of joy or rapture associated with our beloved bluegrass music. But I wonder: Do those photographers, like myself, ever lament missed photo-opportunities?
Saturday during the dinner break at the Fathers Day festival, we ran into our friends Jon and Gina Schaffer on the path in the concession area. Jon told us how his nine-year-old son Christian had just taken off on the banjo after receiving some pointers from Lucy Smith earlier that day. Lucy happened along while we were talking, and Chris immediately opened up his case to show Lucy his banjo. I watched as mentor and protégé crouched alongside the case, discussing the banjo. Young Chris’ enthusiasm and Lucy’s ensuing delight were apparent from their expressions, as was the appreciation of Chris’ parents for the time that Lucy had taken to work with Chris and get him interested in learning how to play. Drat! I had left my camera back at camp and would just have to remember that golden moment without photographic evidence. ...
Now I’m thinking back to an evening at MudFest ‘95, when literally dozens of people were packed in like sardines under a single trailer awning, jamming away while seeking refuge from the torrential rain. Anyone who stood too close to a sawing fiddle bow was in danger of losing an eye, and I think nearly everyone got whacked at one time or another by the headstock of a carelessly-wielded banjo or guitar. If only I’d had my camera handy to capture that chaotic scene! But I wasn’t about to venture out in the storm to retrieve the camera from my trailer. ...
Then there was the time that the late Andy Rogers, aka “Midnight Cowboy”, accepted an invitation from his old friend Rose Maddox to join her onstage with the Bluegrass Patriots. I had met Midnight a few years earlier, when, in the middle of an aisle at Longs Drug Store in Auburn, he took a harmonica from his belt and played an impromptu song for a fascinated baby in a stroller. Now that was a charming photo-op: an elderly African-American man in cowboy garb playing the harmonica for a wide-eyed, tow-headed toddler. But who takes their camera with them when they’re shopping at Longs Drugs? I wish I’d had my camera with me to capture Midnight’s triumphant reunion with Rose onstage in Grass Valley, but once again, I had left my camera back at camp....
Then there was the amazing mega-jam with Vince Combs following his appearance at the 2001 Fathers Day festival. Vince led the jam non-stop from 2:00AM until he finally gave in to his weary, patient bus driver and got on the band bus around 5:00AM so they could begin their long trip back to Ohio. Do you think that I could’ve torn myself away from that jam at any point during those three hours to grab my camera? No way; I might have missed something, and every second of that amazing jam was too precious to lose.
With the countless pictures that I’ve taken, I still think about “the ones that got away”. Yet those pictures I will keep with me always. I only have to close my eyes.
Posted:  7/5/2007

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