Aquarium Revisited

After spending most of my day out on my bike, I return to the apartment and decide I am in desperate need of some restorative yoga.  Since I still have not bothered to find a yoga class, I get out my collection of yoga props and start practicing alone.  The lack of music reminds me that I still haven’t set up streaming to our receiver from iTunes–I’m pretty sure that’s not what I’m supposed to be thinking about during yoga.

I decide to do a couple of slow flows to warm up a bit.  This helps remind me to think about my breath instead of the infinite number of other things I tend to think about.  Then, I start into the long poses required for restoration.  Of course, I have no clock visible, so I have no idea if I stay in the poses long enough to get the full effect given that, in restorative, poses are often held for 10 minutes or more and it’s pretty darn hard to both breath and relax into your pose and mentally track time all at once.  So, I just hold them until it feels like my joints have space in them that they didn’t have before.

After about an hour of yoga poses, I feel far more relaxed and any tightness I had from riding is gone.  I decide that I cannot stay home another evening, doing nothing but sitting around on the couch.  I remember my aquarium membership and my desire to try to shoot in the aquarium and decide this evening is a good time to give it a try.

I jump into the shower and immediately, the memory of the man I met during the bike tour today asking me if I’m retired jumps to mind.  I like to tell myself that I fully accept the fact that I’m aging.  Yet, it’s moments like this that I have to face the fact that vanity has no concept of acceptance.  I may be OK with aging as a general fact of life, but I am not OK with other people thinking I look like I’m aging.

This spurns a sudden interest in appearance.  Instead of doing my usual routine of throwing on some sunscreen, scrunching my hair, and pulling on my most comfortable walking shoes, I suddenly decide to blow my hair out straight, put on some make-up, and locate a cute pair of flats.

After determining that I look as good as I can without professional assistance, I decide to take my camera with one lens so I don’t have to carry my backpack and tripod.  I decide to experiment with my fixed length 100mm lens.  I put the necessary cards and cash into my back pocket, grab my house key, and head out, choosing the fastest route since I am wearing less comfortable shoes than usual.

As I enter the bridge, two men are walking towards me.  One of them, who is probably close to 60, looks at me and says, “Ma’am, you’re looking f-i-i-i-i-ne today!”  Now how did he know I really needed to hear that?  I laugh and say thanks as I continue on my way without slowing down.  I laugh because not only does the timing strike me as funny given my vanity crisis, but also because what was sexual harassment in my 20’s is now rare and welcomed attention in my 40’s.

As I cross the bridge, I look across the water and see people that appear to be standing on the water.  There is a low-lying pier that blends with the surface of the water due to the reflecting light.  I turn around and look back at our building and see the back drop of the hills and the foreground of the park and decide I should stop and shoot for a moment before going to the aquarium.  When I turn on my camera, it gives me the message that no one who has just walked 1/2 a mile in less-than-comfortable shoes wants to see:  “No CF Card!”  I groan, turn off my camera and head back towards home.

I suck it up and get the card and then return to the aquarium, stopping briefly on the bridge for a few shots, but the light reflecting on the pier is not the same.  Oh well, another shot missed!  I enter the aquarium members reception and get my free ticket.  I head towards the penguins.

The glass in front of the penguins is smeared and there is a wall of children pressed against it, standing on the benches in front.  The penguins are racing back and forth, leaping fully out of the water as they fly by.  I make an attempt to capture this, but I have several issues.  First, 100mm is too close for the situation.   Second, even at f/2.8 (as wide as this lens will go), there is not enough light for fast enough shutter speeds to freeze the penguins in motion.  Third, reflections and smudges on the glass confuse the autofocus and make getting any kind of clear focus next to impossible, even when I try to shoot the penguins standing still.  Since I am coming back here for a photography workshop in a couple weeks and I don’t have a lot of time before the aquarium closes, I decide to move on to the jellyfish.

Turns out shooting jellyfish with the macro lens is fun, but also challenging.  Even though they don’t move fast, they move enough that a slow shutter speed causes blur.  And with a wide-open aperture and close focusing, the depth of field is so shallow that I can only get a small area of the jelly in focus.  I play with this a bit and end up with a couple of shots that are interesting, although not quite what I was hoping for.

I move on to look for the alligators, hoping to get some good shots over the top of the glass.  Unfortunately, the alligators are hiding this evening.  Not one appears for a shot.  I shoot some turtles that appear to be cuddling on a log and a couple of birds, but then move on again.

Next, I go up to the atrium on the top floor of the river building.  I find a place to sit and watch for birds.  There is a feeder near my seat, so I figure it’s a good spot.  Eventually, a yellowish bird I don’t recognize comes and perches where I can see it.  I get a couple shots, but even after looking at the signs listing what birds are in the atrium, I cannot identify it.  I make a note to look it up later (I feel quite foolish when I realize it’s a female Scarlet Tanager–something I should be able to recognize).

On my way out of the building, I take a few quick “drive-by” shots of a sea turtle.  I overhear a father and daughter talking about the fact that this turtle is supposed to be in the other building, but he is in timeout for hurting a shark.  He is a huge turtle and there are a lot of small sharks in the other building, so I can see how that would be a problem.

I decide to see if I can find the Macaws before I have to leave.  I’ve forgotten which exhibit they’re part of and it turns out that they’re on a floor in the other building that I skipped today.  Since it’s almost “kick out” time and my heels are now blistered from my cute flats, I decide to call it a shoot and find dinner.

Instead of heading home to fix myself something, I decide to find a bar I can eat at.  This is a habit I developed when traveling alone on business.  I like to be around people vs eating alone in my room, but it feels weird to sit at a table by myself in the middle of a restaurant.  Eating at the bar usually guarantees that you’ll at least have a TV to watch and often results in interesting conversations with complete strangers you’ll never see again.

Tonight, I end up sitting next to Clyde.  He is also alone and we end up talking.  He’s in his 50‘s, unsuccessful at finding a suitable partner in life, and tells me a lot about the differences between women from Wisconsin (where he’s originally from) and women in Chattanooga (which he has called home for more than 20 years).

In the meantime, a couple sits down on his right and the woman next to him keeps talking to him when he’s not talking to me.  Eventually, she leans in, looks back and forth between me and him, and asks, “Are you all married?”  Clyde laughs and says, “No.”  She looks at me and says, “Are you on a date?”  I laugh and say, “No.”  Her face becomes slightly puzzled, “Are you just friends then?”  I smile again and say, “Nope.”  She looks really puzzled and then says, “You all don’t know each other; you just met?”  I nod and say, “Yes.”  She pauses for a moment, looks at Clyde and says, “She just sat down next to you?”  He affirms.  She glances at me, then back to Clyde and says, “She’s real purty!”

If the woman seemed more sober, I might have felt more flattered by this compliment, but I will take it.  Once again, the universe has answered my vanity’s call for affirmation–if only I could get the universe to help me out with more important things (like maybe letting go of my vanity all together)!

After I eat, I say my good-byes and head back across the bridge.  I call Pat and we talk as I walk home.  This is supposedly a security measure, but I tend to think I’m safer when I’m not on the phone just because I’m more alert and, therefore, look less vulnerable.  But, I suppose Pat could call 911 if something happens.  In any case, I make it home safe and sound and it’s only 9:30PM.  Looks like I will still be spending some time on the couch tonight!

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