Stephen Kirkpatrick

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Some days in wildlife photography are blessed, marked by perfect light and animals that actually seem to pose for the camera. Other days are unrewarding, with no activity no matter how many hours or how patiently you wait.

And some days, like last Thursday, are downright disastrous.

I had wandered for a few minutes in a swamp that I visit from time to time, but the water was so low, it didn’t even look like the same place. The drought we’re having had really taken its toll, and the end result was zero activity in an area that’s usually teeming with life. Covered with spider webs, mosquitoes, and a number of ticks and with nothing to show for it, I decided to go elsewhere.

I drove 20 miles to a cypress swamp that was still holding water, where I quickly spotted two alligators on a log. This scene, I thought, had possibilities. I pulled out my 500mm lens with a Nikon F100 attached and set it on the tripod. This is not the camera I’m using to shoot the On A Roll project. That’s my F5, and while I thought the alligator shot had potential, I wasn’t sure it warranted that special roll – a decision for which I am now very grateful.

As I lifted the tripod with the camera and lens mounted and then set it down into position, the latch connecting the camera to the lens failed, and I heard a sound I’ve come to dread.

The camera sank to the bottom of the duckweed-infested water. I immediately fished it out and began shaking out the slimy, green-tinged water, all while simultaneously talking to myself in not-so-complimentary terms. I opened the camera back and ripped out a roll of soggy film, gave it a few more shakes, then sighed, realizing I was now holding a $2,000 paperweight. 

I hiked back out to my truck and sat for a few moments in reflection. Suffice it to say that I was not in a good mood. Should I head back to the house or continue on? I was so uninspired and dejected that capturing an interesting image that afternoon seemed improbable. I drove for awhile, then pulled over when I spotted a small pond. I walked to the water’s edge, where something caught my eye. A small snag was sticking out of the calm water, creating an interesting reflection. At closer look, there was a small sawback turtle sunning on a branch that looked too small for the turtle to have climbed out on. It was unclear how he had gotten into such a precarious position, but there was only one way out.

#2) Sawback Turtle on Snag and Reflection - (H)
Leake County, MS
July 7, 2011 - 5:27 pm
Partly Cloudy, 93 degrees
500mm, 1/200@f4, Tripod  

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