Sometimes I wish I enjoyed photographing landscapes more. They’re so blessedly…stationary. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about taking pictures of children and wildlife during even my short tenure behind a camera, it’s that it’s extremely difficult to capture them in their natural state. One tends to run towards you, the other away.

I was reminded of this in early January while celebrating a late Christmas with my husband’s family. After my prior weekend’s efforts to capture birds at Montana de Oro yielded mostly frustrations with autofocus and bokeh, Skip’s boss kindly lent us his old Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 telephoto lens. On a whim I took it along to the Bay Area, hoping to lurk occasionally unregarded while everyone went about their socializing.

It worked for the bluebirds and finches cavorting in the back yard birdbath, though as usual dozens of photos yielded only a handful sufficiently well focused, well lit and, well, interesting to be worth the effort of post-processing. (It worked less well for the adult humans, who seem to have an uncanny sixth sense for a lens pointing in their direction. A Freeze Response pas de deux inevitably follows, with the photographic subject assuming the role of either startled prey or grinning predator.)

My niece and nephews, on the other hand, pocketed their otherwise mesmerizing toy cell phones and descended on me with startling ferocity when they saw the camera. “What are you doing?” they demanded in chorus.

“Taking pictures.”

Brows remained furrowed in suspicion. “Why?”

“Because,” I hesitated in search of the most innocuous response, “it’s what I do. I take pictures.”

They pondered that for a moment, then agreed that I could photograph them. But only if I let them pose. Fortunately small children have small attention spans, and so after demanding that I set the camera aside to play catch, and then wandering away from the game to ask Uncle Skip to juggle for them (happily one of the living room lamps was only a near casualty), I took the Nikon, retreated to darker corners of the room and resumed shooting unnoticed.