I’ve been crouched in the reeds of the Back Bay in Newport Beach for about 6 minutes by my guess.

I don’t dare glance at my watch in case I spook my subject. Trying to ignore my burning thighs, I keep the lens in focus on the Great Egret waiting for the moment of flight. One thing that photography has taught me is that patience is essential to capture that moment of perfection.

I’ve never had the ability to draw or paint well enough for someone to recognize my subject. The same is true for carrying a musical tune that makes an agreeable sound, although I appreciate those who have been gifted with these abilities. But I do feel an affinity for photography.

In my twenties, my husband gifted me with a 35mm camera. It was unexpected as I had never asked for a camera or even thought about photography other than to admire photographs the few times I picked up a National Geographic magazine at the home of relatives when I was younger. But before I knew it, I had amassed a plethora of lenses and assorted films of varying speeds. I didn’t capture any memorable shots, but I began to hone my knowledge of f stops, lighting and black and white photos versus color film.

When we took a four-year trip to the South Pacific, I knew it was a photographer’s dream filled with the myriad of blues and greens of the warm waters and lush vegetation. Returning to the U.S., we were soon busy with careers, raising a family and all that goes with that. Lugging around all the items required when raising young children felt heavy and time consuming; of course, this was the pre-auto focus era. The introduction of the point and shoot camera with a date stamp was the perfect tool to record all the milestones of our children and our various trips and activities.

Years later, with our family having grown and our travels becoming more diverse, I became frustrated by the limitations of my trusty point and shoot camera. My old 35mm needed repair and I couldn’t find a repair shop that would even take it on in the new digital era. When the local camera shop stopped offering film development, I finally succumbed to a digital camera.

Returning to photography was like entering a warm bath. I was instantly immersed in a world where the simplest of subjects such as the veins of a leaf, a fence post, even a blade of grass, became a new frontier.

Looking through the viewfinder, I began to see things with a new perspective. While I love to take my camera on our travels, I truly delight in finding beauty in my own backyard. Armed with a couple of lenses, I can transform the ordinary into extraordinary. A dew laden spider web becomes an abstract confection, a puddle is nature’s mirror and a butterfly’s wing crafting a tiny mosaic.

Finding a unique way to frame a shot or see a subject from a narrowed focus has given me a way to express myself artfully and share how I see the world.

I also love the serendipity of photography. Hiking with a friend one day, with my camera swinging from my neck, we walked around a curve and in front of us was a Barn Owl perched above us in a hollow of a tree. The rare sighting made the otherwise humdrum outing a wonderful moment to share. I always have a sense when I have taken a special image, but sometimes a beautiful surprise happens when the image is downloaded. I see something I hadn’t noticed while shooting that becomes the focus of a particular shot.

For example, one late afternoon, I visited my favorite beach hoping to get some sunset pictures. I couldn’t see anything unusual in the sky; nothing felt very compelling but I doggedly kept on and took a romantic shot that benefited from the golden light of a setting sun. I hadn’t made the sun the focal point but later realized I had captured something wonderful. The unexpected stories behind photos like this one make them special for me.

With the encouragement of friends and family, I have started a webpage to share my images. Having followers and feedback from around the world has made me realize how alike we are across cultures-art truly unifies us. I love being part of this community! Of course, it’s particularly wonderful right now.

As I watch the graceful bird take off skimming effortlessly over the water, I snap away as fast as I can in the several seconds my vantage point allows. The moment is over, and the egret continues on its journey. I walk up the trail smiling to myself, hopeful I have captured the elegant bird in all its glory.

Editor’s note: To view more of Denise’s incredible work, some of which has garnered awards in local photo contests, visit Denise online at 1-denise-benson.pixels.com or on Instagram @ picchic17,

Denise Benson

Author Denise Benson

Denise Benson is a photographer, creative writer and traveler. Discovering new ideas, people, places and cultures is a lifelong passion, which Denise enjoys sharing with her readers using her unique perspective as a photographic storyteller. An avid sailor, she and her husband Brian have sailed 10,000 blue water miles exploring the South Pacific. Along with sailing, she enjoys travel, food & wine, books and nature related activities, including napping on the fore-deck of her boat, Moonstone.

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