Sunday, June 30, 2024

5 Minutes in Nature: No place like home

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet Taking Off, Autumn, Snohomish County, Washington

Five Minutes in Nature, my new exhibit and book, shares some of my all-time favorite experiences outdoors over the two decades I’ve been a nature photographer. Viewers may be astonished to see how many of them took place so close to my home.

The exhibit at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York, features 33 large-scale photographs representing those experiences. Two of those were taken in my yard. Four more are from small parks only a few miles from my house.

It’s not that I don’t like to travel and have new experiences. I do. Another image is from an especially tiny island in the Cook Islands — an island so small that I had to find a local family to take me in and let me borrow their car. There are no hotels or resorts there. The experience I treasure is the morning I spent watching white terns fly overhead, not the accomplishment of getting there.

My emphasis on “local” experiences is very important to one of the key themes behind this whole project: wonder is all around us if only we take the time to look.

So much of our quality time in nature comes only as the result of incredible effort. Long drives or flights. Expensive tours. Coordinating time off work.

But spend five minutes outdoors wherever you are and you’re almost certain to hear birds singing. Find interesting patterns in vegetation. Feel the breeze on your skin.

It’s easy to fall into a trap where you confuse quality time in nature with the amount of effort we expended to enjoy it. When we do that, however, nature becomes something that we enjoy only sporadically on the rare occasions when we have the time and resources to venture out.

In my yard, perhaps 25 feet from my front door, I have had the pleasure of getting to know a red-breasted sapsucker family that took up residence in an elm tree. From my back deck, I’ve enjoyed numerous autumn mornings watching a ruby-crowned kinglet dart around trees foraging for insects. The season provided a touch of golden color, while also removing some leaves, making the elusive bird a bit easier to track.

Both of those experiences are just as meaningful as others that I have had to travel around the world to reach. They’re a reminder to me to appreciate the wonder that’s available where I live with the same enthusiasm that I take with me where I’m a visitor.

When someone gets a spectacular picture, we often say, “You were in the right place at the right time!” As I write in the book, the natural world is infinitely more interesting if you instead have the attitude that wherever you are is the right place and that right now is the right time.

The exhibit is open through July 21. Five Minutes in Nature is also available as a book.

(Prints of Kevin Ebi's images are available through Learn about new work by joining his mailing list.)

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