“I Will Build It and They Will Come”
Article and Images by Joseph CagliusoThe Captivating and delicate beauty of nature inspires my passion for nature photography. I have traveled to many places to photograph and have always returned home with great satisfaction. One day approximately four years ago I walked out into my backyard and for some reason unknown to me I looked at the in-ground pool that is located out near the back of the property and noticed it was in pretty sad shape, for it had not been used for many years. I started contemplating making a change. Then in a blink of an eye I asked myself, what if somehow I was able to convert it to some type of water garden?
After conducting extensive research and consulting with many local, town, and professional tradesman I was able to put a plan into motion.
Upon removing the old decayed pool liner I noticed that the base of the pool was not constructed of any manmade materials such as concrete or steel, but it was of subsoil and sand; no excavation was necessary. I simply backfilled the hole with soil and sand and using my imagination I shaped the soil to form the primary shape of the pond to be.
I designed the pond specially to promote a tranquil and sometimes vocal sanctuary for contemplating nature, a center for inspiration for my creative energy. Whichever style garden you choose its features can probably be traced to the Japanese tradition.
My next step was to make the hole watertight. I installed a heavy duty rubber liner of the type used for fish hatcheries and other marine establishments. Keeping in mind I wanted the pond to look as natural, as though it had always been there, I added rocks, gravel, and boulders. I also used plants by the water’s edge thus hiding the pond liner and other plants to unify the surrounding area. Plants and flowers provide color and variety to the garden.
The basic shape of the ponds was now completed. It was time to fill the pond with water, and at this point a fascinating process started to take place. Water in all its many forms brings both energy and charm to a garden. For thousands of years virtually every culture and age has recognized the aesthetic quality of water and its importance in sustaining life. Because water is essential for life, it invokes natural emotions when we are in its presence by stimulating the senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. More importantly it nurtures a vast ecosystem of plants and wildlife.
I filled the hole with water and a pond was created. This pond is now an ecosystem in that it plays host to all organisms in the environment including fish, frogs, birds, plants, and many microscopic organisms. They all share a community interacting with one another. In addition, by me introducing goldfish to the pond an aquatic habitat was also created thus balancing both animal and plant life.
The final task in completing the pond was to incorporate the sound of moving water. I accomplished this by adding a submersible pump at the bottom of the pond. The water is now pumped to the far side of the pond above the water level thus flowing down through rocks and boulders creating waterfalls and then meandering back down through a flat area acting as a stream and finally flowing back into the pond. In addition this recirculation of water provides filtration and keeps the fish active and healthy.
As a photographer I discover subjects to photograph by taking a short trip to my backyard and it becomes more of a trip to my inner vision than traveling to some locale. I simply take my camera and tripod and begin to explore what the pond and its surroundings present to me. If I look closely at the pond’s surface I can witness and photograph ever moving patterns found in the ripples and reflections of the water. This I will accomplish at both dawn and dusk. At the same moment with the sound and the movement of the water, I can feel the stress of the day being carried away. Other times I can touch the ribbon-like waterfalls and pause to reflect, for on my face I can feel its cooling effect by a simple mist gently blowing in the air. In addition if I look closely at the water I can also see goldfish dimpling the surface continuing to captivate for they are also part of the ecosystem.
The plants in and surrounding the pond also give me numerous, ever-changing subjects to photograph. Whether I’m photographing a symbolically rich lotus blossom, a graceful corkscrew willow, moss on a rock, duckweed, algae, or a water hyacinth, the pond is forever changing and always waiting to be explored. Every day brings to me a new surprise and challenging photographic opportunities.
Given the right circumstances wildlife will also make the pond home. Many birds fly into the stream for a quick bath and then fly off. I see rabbits and squirrels. At times left imprinted in the soil I can see footprints of a deer, raccoon, and other wildlife. There are no restrictions in the pond, it is accessible day or night so wildlife visitors can come and go as they please.
A butterfly is another captivating subject to watch and photograph as it skims from leaf to branch landing for just a moment to be observed for its beauty while lending its color to all the plants and flowers on which it perches. A dragonfly can also be challenging to photograph as it rarely pauses in its search for insects above the pond.
When shooting macro, getting up close and personal, there are also numerous subjects to explore and photograph. Getting down and looking in the crevices of the rock and gravel I can see several species of moths building their shelters consisting of leaf pieces and debris of which they feed on the water’s surface. The opportunities are numerous for the list is endless.
Keep in mind that my pond is not only enjoyable but also provides additional habitats and diversity to add to our already stressed environment. Every drop of water, every speckled rock, holds the secrets and mystery of life as we try to comprehend it.
The pond is only one little piece of earth, specifically defined, and my present passion for nature photography allows me new horizons, different ways of exploring nature. At the close of each day I enjoy the soul satisfying peace of the waters within my private yet unrestricted sanctuary.