TIME and a World of Change ~ Part II

Public domain image--wish it was my own! https://goo.gl/EaQ6wq
Public domain image–wish it was my own! https://goo.gl/EaQ6wq

The nuance and precision and beauty in the motion of living things and landscapes is often lost to our eyes, because too few frames a second can be processed in our brains. All we see is a blur of action without details. But the eye of the camera, with a little sourcery, can slow motion enough for us to see the intricacies of motion. Continued from Part I.

Here a housefly was able to turn upside-down just at the last thousandths of a second–a maneuver that filled many full seconds in the clip I watched in amazement as a tiny acrobat stuck the landing on the ceiling.

I think of this wonderfully complex skill every time I swat an annoying fly that disturbs me at my desk. Damn you, Disney!

A robin in flight cambered its wings and even changed the pitch of individual primary feathers–using the same skin muscles that give us goose bumps, which is the best act we can do with our puny feather-counterparts we call hair.

Visible before my young eyes, the impeccable timing and skillful motor planning of an ordinary bird prepared to land, like an aircraft increasing drag and slowing its approach before touch-down.

The target for the bird as I watched was a single distant and tiny branch, not a miles-long strip of concrete. Bird, from full speed to full stop in mere seconds. Beat that, Boeing!

I think of this when a garrulous swarm of September starlings rushes from nowhere to temporary perches in the pines out my window, every dark-pearlescent one of them a consummate gymnast tumbling and diving in air. The judges give them a perfect 10.

So the take-home for a fifth-grader in 1960: Rapidly-happening things could be slowed down enough to show details of motion too fast for a ten-year-old city boy’s eyes to take in.

There was more going on around me–just out in the flower bed under the front window–than I would have known, but for these few brief photographic special effects. But there was more!

This is the second excerpt from this topic taken from One Place Understood–a book in my mind only, maybe always, but at least until summer of 2018. Go to Part One

This short video shows precision flying by red kites (a kind of hawk) swooping down for bits of bacon (watch how they say no-thanks to the break scraps!)

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fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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