Dinosaurs at Dawn

Dandelions and Dinosaurs Make For Strange Bedfellows

Photography is a medium that concerns itself with preserving a moment. The resulting image bears the responsibility of telling the story of that moment. Often times, in our eagerness to “capture the moment,” we produce a series of images with each image providing a slightly different solution to the story. This is the nature of the camera and of the photographer, regardless of whether the story is documentary in nature or completely fabricated.

Previously I’ve worked in the documentary style. I’ve also worked in a style that provides a commentary nature to things I have documented. However, right now I prefer to work with the fabricated and bring moments from the realm of the imaginary into reality. That being said, this story is one of those cases where a photo shoot took on a life of its own and offered me more solutions to a simple story than I had ever imagined.

The day started out as any other might: up at the crack of dawn, trying to solve the scourge of dandelions that had over taken the yard (and my husband’s mind) with my sidekick “Paul: The Most Disgruntled Penguin.” Yes, that is his formal name. My thought process was that if the penguin was going to cop that type attitude, I might as well give him something to be unhappy about.

So at 5 am we are standing in the back yard waiting for the sun to rise and our kingdom of dandelions to open up. I grew up in the ruralesque northeast, so I’ve always understood the hopeless nature of the war against dandelions. However the Husband, he isn’t from around here, and this is really the first time he has encountered dandelions as interlopers in “his” yard. He has launched an all out war, due of some insane belief that if he can pull up all the dandelions, then the weeds will be banished from our yard. Up until now I have watched this assault with some amusement—partly because I won’t use herbicides in the yard, but mostly because I know our yard well enough to understand that this isn’t going to be a war against a singular type of weed. If he somehow claims a victory over the dandelions, which is lunacy at best, then he has the plantain, wild mint, clover, garlic weed, bishops weed and crabgrass to go. In our yard actual grass is something of an exotic species…as in it’s rare, can be spotted in the right light and doesn’t seem to want to participate in the overall plan.

Even though I don’t support the cause it doesn’t mean I am not a team player—and that is why I am standing in the yard at dawn with the penguin. I have decided that I will rip off all the heads of the dandelions, so at least our dandelions don’t seed the yard. I am not expecting a victory here, but what I did expect was the makings of a photo shoot for “Paul: The Most Disgruntled Penguin” who had his own story to tell:

Paul the penguin finds himself lost among the dandelions

Paul the penguin was not happy, not happy at all. He had decided to forgo using a map, and rely on raw animal instincts to get him to the annual family reunion on the glacier…Obviously raw animal instinct had let him down.

Paul reminds me of a lot of people I know…just sayin’.

As I am shooting, I realized that I probably could have used more sleep, I was in very close proximity to dog poo, and that I am covered in this sticky, staining dandelion sap. I am not what you would call a particularly “happy camper”. Suddenly this amazing transcendent light appears, filtered through our somewhat alive S&M hedge (you read that right, but its a story for another time). This light is beautiful; photo buff or not, you have to understand that dappled light is one of the most beautiful and infuriating things on the planet. It looks breathtaking, but a vast majority of the time the tonal range is too wide to translate well in pictures. You know the time you took that picture of your parents/boyfriend/best friend under that tree with the dappled light and you thought you were awesome…and then you looked at the picture and it looks like they have a pronounced skin condition? Yeah, that is common; how you see and how the camera sees have less in common than you think.

But this light was perfect—it was directional,dappled, transfused and dramatic all at once. This was the light of legend and I had to capture it…but not with “Paul: The Most Disgruntled Penguin.” My brain was already doing inventory of my props as I ran, stumbling, into the house. I didn’t even know what I was after until my hand wrapped around it: a triceratops skeleton.

So now it’s 6:30 am, I am in my yard, covered in stickiness, clutching a dinosaur skeleton, squatting in a mini field of dandelions, having a spiritual experience with light…yep, that is how I roll. As I place the triceratops into the dandelions all I can think, giggling, is “hee-hee, this is what the Husband is going to look like before the end of the dandelion wars…he will be extinct before the dandelions fall.” Like I said I needed more sleep, and in that moment that I snapped the shutter my triceratops had a transcendent experience.

 In the end this was not the final photo I chose to tell the story—but it is one that reminds me of the best light of my life, and the upside of being a team player. Most of all this photo shoot  preserved a moment, that told a story about the Great Dandelion Wars of 2013: that dandelions had been around forever, there was no point in trying to rid the yard of them.

This is the final image I choose to represent the everlasting victory of the dandelions.

If you liked the little story under Paul The Penguin’s picture, you’ll find that each photo in the  “Animals Among Us” series has a short tale to tell in its description.

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