UC Davis graduate, Spring 2022
Major: Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology
While I waited for Jessie to arrive, I wandered around the ranch, chasing shadows. I was anxious to find the right backdrop for our photo shoot with a pony, but the lighting was constantly changing as the sun slipped slowly towards the horizon. I wanted the softness of shade to show the details, and I wanted green (for a website about Green Care), which are both rare commodities during the scorching summer in Davis. I finally settled on a leafy tree that was blocking the sun, but I still had little confidence in my plan. Animals are always unpredictable subjects, and I had rarely photographed humans. As Jessie approached me, I felt apprehensive but hopeful. When I was hired as a Piglet Whisperer, I never imagined that it would give me an opportunity to rediscover photography.
Years ago, I forgot why I first picked up a camera. For six years, I had been taking portraits of animals at a shelter to show potential adopters. I had taken photography classes online, and I had met a professional photographer who was giving me advice for free. I often felt great satisfaction in taking flattering photos of my furry and feathery friends, especially when someone would adopt one after seeing a photo I had taken. But the more my skills improved, the more pressure I felt to make every photo a masterpiece, which of course, is impossible. Cameras malfunction, pit bulls knock over backdrops, kittens cower in corners, and I’m human. Although the professional photographer taught me a lot, he did not teach me what I needed to learn the most – to accept imperfection and enjoy the process. For a long time, I rarely took photos, first because of the pressure I felt, and later because it was no longer a priority in my life.
As Jessie struggled to pull the pony’s head up from grazing for the hundredth time, her patience put me at ease. When Becca (Dr. Rebecca Calisi-Rodríguez) later brought her son to pose with a pony, I had to work with a six-year-old’s attention span, but the enthusiasm of both Becca and her son made it a fun process. Photographing Nora with the piglets was even more challenging because the piglets would not hold still for more than a second. But with all of those subjects, I found that I enjoyed capturing the connection between the human and the animal. And when I staged Dalia and Elizabeth pretending to work in the garden that hasn’t been built yet, we were all laughing. The positivity of the Green Care Lab team has given me more confidence in my ability to capture a variety of subjects.
When I took a group photo for the website (using a self-timer), someone suggested that we do a goofy version. While everyone else spontaneously converted themselves into colorful characters, I paused, wondering how to strike a silly pose…And then suddenly I knew. I pressed the button on my camera, ran to the nearest hay bale, and flopped with my head upside down. I want to take that feeling with me. I want to run and flop onto the next opportunity I find in photography, and in life – even if I land upside down.
Green Care Blog
Here you can find blog posts from each Green Care Lab intern. We'll be talking about our research process, the benefits of Green Care therapy, and sharing pictures of our work. Follow along with us!