While the human eye sees images at about 1/40th of a second, modern digital cameras can freeze time at 1/8000th of a second.
The result is that such cameras, in the hands of skilled artists, can produce stunning images of wildlife.
Photographers such as 56-year-old Cissy Beasley.
She just won fifth place in the “Wildlife in Focus” competition — a biannual South Texas contest designed to promote conservation through images and awareness of natural resources by pairing a contestant with a particular landowner.
When winners are announced, both are named.
Using two Nikon bodies and two telephoto lenses, Cissy photographed on a ranch owned by her brother, John.
“The only restrictions are time and the location,” she says.
She photographed first in February then April through June.
THAT SHE has been taking pictures for only three years is remarkable enough, but it also is the first time she entered the contest.
She almost didn’t.
In downloading her photographs to a computer — after uploading the latest software upgrade — she lost 2,000 images.
“I almost quit,” she admits. “Fortunately, I had some of the images on a separate computer.
If that wasn’t enough of a setback, she also underwent an appendectomy.
Shortly after that, her doctors diagnosed an extremely rare type of cancer.
The deadline for the contest was a month away.
NOW CANCER-FREE, but still showing some of the effects of treatment, Cissy put her fifth-place win in perspective: the second-place winner is a photographer for National Geographic.
Contestants are not allowed to manipulate their entries. “We can’t add or subtract anything from the original photograph,” she explains. “The judges require us to turn in the raw image from the camera as well as the picture we enter, so they can compare the two.”
Cissy laughs when she cites one photographer who tried to compensate for a poor picture by enhancing the color “so much you had to look at it with dark glasses.”
HER SPECIALITY — or her preference — is to capture the action of birds in flight.
“I have an advantage,” she says. “I’ve hunted in South Texas, and I’m a trained skeet shooter.”
But, her website — www.coastandcactus.com — shows her talent is multi-faceted.
She says the contest itself was educational. “I learned a lot from the pictures that placed. I’m happy with what they chose but a little mystified by what they didn’t choose.”
Two other Beeville wildlife photographers, Sylvia Garcia-Smith and George Gilchrist, almost placed in the contest.
CISSY’S VISION reaches beyond the contest. She is planning to compile and publish a wildlife photo book for children, with “lots of funny pictures.”
“Through my photography,” she states on her business card, “I seek to promote a greater awareness of the natural beauty of South Texas and its inhabitants, and the importance of the ecosystem that supports our precious wildlife. As part of my family legacy, conservation for me is a priority.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.