Sometimes it’s easier to ditch the car and walk

Sometimes it's easier to ditch the car and walk


There is an oft quoted saying, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” It is attributed to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, believed to have lived in the sixth century B.C. Back then I’m sure just about all journeys were made on foot. Today’s daily photojournalism forays technically start with a first step: waking up. But the trusty photo vehicle is enlisted for each day’s journeys.

Driving Cape Cod is challenging any time of year. For this slow-moving motorist, always on the lookout for an interesting photograph, it can be downright maddening. I wouldn’t want to walk to each assignment, but when several assignments stack up in Hyannis, I park at the Main Street office and walk. This removes the biggest challenge any driver faces, where to park.

A young snapping turtle takes a quick rest after a harrowing morning rush hour crossing of Route 6A in Barnstable before it safely made it into the nearby woods.

A young snapping turtle takes a quick rest after a harrowing morning rush hour crossing of Route 6A in Barnstable before it safely made it into the nearby woods.

If you are carrying a camera, the art of seeing can be practiced to a high level on foot. But most days the travel pace is at least 30 miles per hour. If something catches my eye, it is likely in the rearview mirror by the time I can pull over and backtrack to the subject. This abrupt technique defeats just about any chance of a subtle approach, scaring away wildlife and humans alike.

Days sometimes turn into weeks when looking for interesting photos that turn out to be failures. When all seems lost, on the busiest of days, photo ops pop up everywhere, if only I was walking. Last Tuesday, driving in West Yarmouth, a flock of male turkeys, all puffed up and looking for action, circled around a bird bath drinking. Traffic was heavy and a string of tailgaters were already aggrieved about my speed. By the time I could double back, the turkey boys were done with their libations and had moved back to pecking at the grass.

More: Photo Shoot: Misadventures in bird photography

Traveling the homestretch back on Route 6A, another moment of nature was playing out. It looked like it could end in a fatality. What first appeared to be a leaf skittering across the road turned out to be a young snapping turtle, taking determined steps across the highway. Fast-moving traffic didn’t see the animal, just past the center line and heading north. Again traffic on my tail prevented a sudden stop. On the busy road, it took almost five minutes to reverse direction and find a place to safely pull over. The turtle had miraculously crossed the busy state highway. It was reluctant to pose, I backed away and stood guard until it made it into the woods.

It was a brave single step that started that snapper’s purposeful journey, an inspiration for all who navigate Cape highways in summer.

Steve Heaslip is the Times’ chief photographer. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter/X: @cctphoto

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Photo Shoot: The First Step