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 Bill Bernbeck
  Bio  Artist Statement  Journal Gallery 

Walkabout Journal

 Mobo, Bucky, and Belle

In photography, one develops the habit of keeping his “eye” open for photo-ops, those instances when something photogenic happens. Sometimes you can foresee them, like anticipating a sunrise or sunset from a scenic location. However, there are many times when besides being ready, you have to be quick. A little luck doesn’t hurt either.

Such was the case as Mike and I were driving along Colorado 14 between Gould and Walden. The autumn weather in the North Park Basin had been touch and go as we went from sunshine to rain to sleet to slush to snow to any combination thereof. We were on our way to the Stockman’s Bar, a local watering hole offering tap beer, good chili, and TVs to watch the Broncos play the Chiefs in their Sunday football joust. We had left behind a cabin full of fishermen snoring away their morning exertions with rod and line.

I was driving.  There was a herd of horses in a field ahead. As we passed the herd, my photographer’s eye clicked in on a possible photo-op. An ominous weather front was forming over the mountains. It filled the sky with a deep gray cloudscape promising even heavier weather to come. I saw the buff colored coats of the horses stand out against that cloud and mountain background – all this from a peripheral glimpse at 60 mph. It was a decisive moment.  Go for it.

Fortunately, there was no other vehicle traffic. There was also no place to pull off the roadway. I stopped the car right there in the road. Grabbing my camera and an extra lens, I asked Mike to continue driving until he could turn around and retrieve me.  Mike, always willing to give a hand, took the wheel as I headed back toward the herd.  I changed lenses as I approached the horses.

They were cow ponies, perhaps descendants of Spanish mustangs, working horses used to earning their keep. They were small, probably not much more than 15 hands, some even smaller. Their features were sharply chiseled within multi-colored hues of beige, tan, roan, chestnut, or gray. As I approached, a small group responded with a friendly saunter to check me out.

Those weather clouds loomed even closer. There was a new chill in the brisk incoming wind. The distant mountains were steadily being lost to view behind a haze of heavy rain or snow. The storm was coming in fast. There would not be much time for composing. I would have to take whatever image the situation allowed.

 One group of three horses persisted in their curiosity. They kept clinging close to the fence wire even after the others’ curiosity seemed satisfied. I completed only two or three exposures when I heard Mike pull the car up behind me. The wind was getting stronger. I felt the first plops of what promised to be a heavy sleet. I made it back to the car almost, but not quite, missing the onslaught of sleet and rain.

 We proceeded on to the Stockman. We had a few beers. The chili was spicy enough to help me dry out a little. The Broncos dealt a loss to the Chiefs.

I studied the images over the following week. I really liked what I had captured, and pondered what to title the final print. I whimsically decided to create names for the three principle ponies.

The center one would be “Bucky”. His light gray coloring, dark mane flowing like buckskin tassels, and his muscular bearing gave him a real western hero look. He stood tall and patient, unmoved by the vagaries of the incoming weather.

 I had been reading a Ben Bova novel at the time. One of the villainous henchmen in the story was “Mobo”. The brown chestnut to Bucky’s right kept his glance aside, ears slightly flattened, his manner subdued. His features contrasted with the heroic Bucky.  Mobo would be a good fit for him.

 Naming the little filly to Bucky’s left presented a challenge that eluded me the longest. She would not let the bigger horses muscle her away from her place next to Bucky. Her features were gracefully elegant, complemented by her milk-chocolate color and small, soft eyes. I considered a few candidate names but none seemed to be right. A week later, on the long cross-country drive home, as we passed Belle Plain, Iowa, the name “Belle” struck a chord. I now had my title, “Mobo, Bucky, & Belle”.

Mobo, Bucky, and Belle by Bill Bernbeck 

I received many compliments on this picture during its inaugural exhibition at Image City. Jane Ellen introduced me to a poem by James Wright titled “A Blessing”. I was touched at how my picture fit the theme.

So, was I ready and quick, or just plain lucky? Well, I did have my camera equipment on hand. I did have my eye out for a photo-op. I was familiar enough with the equipment to let me change lenses in stride. I was ready.

As well, I recognized the situation, and knew there would be no second chance. I went for the picture based only on a sidelong glance and a hunch. I would call that being quick, taking advantage of a short-lived opportunity.

The Roman philosopher, Seneca, held that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. From that same concept, Thomas Jefferson observed, “I find the harder I work, the luckier I get”.  I always liked the folksy wisdom expressed by an old electrician, “The readier I get, the luckier I be”. 

So, did I fit into that equation of preparation meeting opportunity?

Nah! I was just lucky.

Bill Bernbeck
January 2011

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