If you've ever driven through the woods at night, imagining all sorts of things out there, lurking, watching, maybe shadowing the car - and I have - the reality as seen through a thermal camera can be a letdown at first. Relax, it was for survey purposes, no animals were harmed. There were none of the packs or wolves or mountain lions I envisioned as a kid. A few deer, the occasional raccoon or opossum. One time, we were really lucky and spotted a gray fox. Even if I knew intellectually it was going to be like that, I still had hopes on being surprised.
But there are other joys. Finding out the reflection in a pond is still visible through the camera was a neat discovery. The way a shrub with enough little birds roosting in it can glow like a faint moon. After a while, I noticed how the view of the forest reminded me of some pictures I'd seen of electron microscope views of cells. The ground is mostly dark, save for some irregular warm patches, and the trees stand up, brighter, like the cilia on the walls of the cell. I don't typically think along the lines of the earth as one giant organism, but the view put that thought in my mind. Us driving along, through a forest that's one skin cell on an enormous creature. Or a tiny one, in the larger scope of the universe, which would make us a subatomic particle?
And there was the reminder all sorts of things don't show up on a thermal camera. Invariably we'd see something through the trees, that seemed like it'd be easy to see with some light. Then we'd find out there were all sorts of vines, leaves, and small limbs in the way that hadn't been picked up the other way. And there are all kinds of creatures that wouldn't show up either, because their body temperatures wouldn't be any different from the air around them. I should have been imagining alligators instead of wolves all those years.