All I wanted was a Damn Photograph of a Red Canoe!

John Beamish

Keswick, Canada

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 21

Artist's Description

I think this is worth relating, am sure all photographers go through something like this from time to time…to get the shot!

I was out driving around looking for some photo ops on one of those typical hot languid summer afternoons. You know the kind where the heat seems to be a living entity as it undulates up from the pavement.

I had just come onto the main highway after following the river down in the cool shaded valley. Unfortunately most of the river is lined with private residences so I was only able to catch the odd fleeting glint of the sun flashing on the cool ripples of the water as it flowed along.

Now out on the highway, windows up air conditioning on I figured I would head home, so I allowed my mind relax as I hurried down the road. I never completely relax, ever vigilant of the passing landscape always looking, subconsciously at times, for something interesting to shoot.

I had traveled this road several times and thought I had captured all that was there to be captured so when I saw that briefest flash of red my eyes when to the rear-view mirror, my foot to the brake and my hand to the signal indicator and pulled to the shoulder.

As soon as I opened the door a wave of smoldering heat seemed to physically slam me and I almost said the “hell with this” and got back in the coolness of the vans air-conditioner. As I head along the shoulder of the road I can see the red that caught my eye, is a canoe sitting on the edge of a pond. What the heck I will check it out maybe it will make for a nice shot.

As I approach the pond I see it is set back from the road and hard to see the canoe at all (maybe this why I have not noticed it before). So now I am kind of ticked off, having wasted my time plus the walk back along the heat shimmering road for nothing. I guess if I were to put it in perspective I am more then middle aged (unless I live to be a hundred and sixteen) a smidgen over my ideal weight, have arthritis and my lungs, well lets just say they have seen better days.

I figure in for a penny in for a pound I think, so I venture down through the ditch to the fence and climb up high enough to see the canoe. I now have a wonderful view but I to stand on the third wire of the fence and when I take my hand off the top wire to try and shoot it starts to oscillating back and forth. Okay, logic says that if I lean forward into the top three will hold my weight and it should be steady enough for me to get my shot.

With both hands on my camera I slowly lean forward and I suddenly understand some important things.
One: Fence wire is not designed to be used as a ladder or support mechanism.
Two: When a heavy weight is in motion and above the pivot point said weight tends NOT to stop until it meets a heavier or greater object, namely the ground.
Three: The brain is a wondrous machine, in the middle of a crisis it will sort out the fact that you have both hands around your four thousand dollar camera equipment, that the hard ground is coming at you very fast and it IS going to hurt a LOT and opts for the physical punishment as opposed to damaging the equipment.
I also learned I can move like a cat (a tired old cat, but a cat none the less) and twisted around so the brunt of the collision would be taken on my shoulder. This immediately initiated another lesson, the tread on hiking boots are made coarse and widely spaced not only for traction on the trail but are phenomenal for catching fence wire like the teeth of a deranged dog.

Shaken but not stirred, I was from ready to try and move. I realized some more stuff, mostly good stuff thank goodness.
One: The ground near ponds is soft…yeah.
Two: I am glad the wire was old and strung on the inside of the posts.
Three: It is cooler down close to mother earth.
Four: The sky sure is pretty.

After calming down I realized I was okay and seemed to be undamaged so I carefully extracted my foot from the now sagging fence wire and sat up to take stock of things. All seemed well until I stood. I did not know lightning could strike out of the ground on a hot sunny day, but I am sure that,s what hit my ankle when I stepped down. Damn it hurt!

So there I stood, well leaned against the fence, hobbled, sore, itchy hot and still no picture. Again the brain knows best, right. Get back to the truck and get your ankle looked at before it becomes one with the boot. Most sane folk would heed this sage advice, but aah, old mister anger shows up.

You came through all this crap to get a picture of that friggin red canoe, don’t wuss out now. Only a few more feet and you will have it! Why do I listen to this manifestation of my ego? Why?

I gather myself and push off from the fence an immediately the ankle tells my my recent decision is not to it,s liking and thinks I should get back over the fence and to a clinic or hospital. This is probably an easy task as I have kind of pulled a section down and there would be no climbing involved.

I could not do it, I had to get my picture or it was all for nothing. Steeling myself once again, I hop toward the pond on my good foot.

This day is just packed full of lessons! Next I learn that the ground around a pond gets softer as you get closer to it, exponentially so; and that when two hundred and thirty pounds is elevated about six inches the resulting force while being borne on the area of a size ten foot the soft earth WILL GIVE WAY and rapid sinking ensues!

Of course when you try and maintain your balance this usually results in sinking deeper and loss of said balance at any rate. Result, the next sound I hear is my ass making wet squishy contact with the ground.
At first this is okay, even as I feel the dampness spread across the broad expanse of my posterior I find it soothingly cool.

So there I am one foot mired in mud the other unable to bear weight, ass in water and my camera held high out of harms way, I am beginning to feel this might not be worth the effort.

Carefully, I replace the lens cap and place the camera gingerly on the matted but dry reeds and grass. I can’t push with my bad foot so I begin digging my foot out with my hands. Now I know I am a guy and these things should not bother me but, I hate getting dirt under my fingernails and I hate sticking my hands in slimy stuff that I can not really see. Where I know there is a good chance that there are snakes around. I HATE snakes, ever since Roberta R. put one down the back of my shirt in grade three.

I loathed every hand full, I knew I would pull a snake out for sure. Long story shortened I finally got my foot out. Now you would think common sense would kick in, nope, not our Johnny boy, no sir. I came to shoot that damn red canoe and I was going to do it.

I move slowly forward and there it is, bright and bold as all get out. Finally, I gather my wits, take several deep calming breaths, exhale and presto I have it.

Deliriously happy I make my way back to the fence. I can’t leave it like this these people might have livestock and I don’t want to be responsible for any bovine/car carnage. I realize I have no way of fixing this so I know I have to find the house and tell the owner what I have done.

The way things are going I figure I will probably spend a night in jail or get sued for trespassing, but hey that might be a fitting ending to my day.

I follow the fence to a driveway a couple of hundred yard down the road (first thing I had done right). As I made my way up the longest dam driveway on the planet I see two young children playing on tire swing out front and they see me at just about the same instant.

The swing stops abruptly and the kids run screaming into the house, Oh crap, I must look like Freddie Kruger, slide stepping along and I am sure the camera looked like a weapon from a distance!

My pulse starts to race and I sweat even more heavily, this will be anything but good. Our gun laws are fairly strict but farmers are allowed to have them to keep deer, wolves and other vermin off their property and i don’t know many farmers who don’t hunt.

Sure enough, the door bursts open and I see what looks like a very nice, very deadly under/over shotgun come out the door with a very big, very determined looking man on the other end of it.

Surprisingly his first words were not Howdy neighbor, how can I help you? But , what the hell do you think your doing %$&*!
Hastily I start to tell my story as he approaches me warily, his yes looking hard at my camera. I realize he must think it,s a weapon so I tell him it,s a camera but place it on the ground at my feet. Insanely I am thinking, I could shoot him first (it would make a hell of a picture) but his is a bigger caliber. Too westerns and war movies when I was a kid I guess.

As I continue explaining what had happened and I was wanted to fix his fence, he walks closer and slowly his face relaxes and turns to a grin and finally he starts to laugh. This kind of hurts, here i am trying to do right by this guy and he thinks it,s so damn funny.

He tells me not to worry he will fix the fence and asks if I would like a cold drink and maybe use the washroom. I would pay for that I tell him and we head into the house. One look in the mirror and I see why his kids panicked, I was covered head to toe in mud. My face look like a bad camo job the sweat has made streaks down my face and my hair was sticking up at odd angles.

After a quick wash and a coke I apologized for the damage and scaring his children and started to leave. Jacob, my new friend asked to see this picture I wanted so badly. I turned on the camera, hit the appropriate button and turned it around so he could see. Hell, it,s not even in focus. I squinted to look at it (forgot my glasses) smiled and said, Oh I wanted something more artistic then a shot of it in focus.

Jacob gave me a ride back to my truck, telling me how funny he thought the whole thing was and that he appreciated that I would make an effort to fix what I had broken. But hell, that story was worth every minute it would take to fix it and he would probably laugh every time he when down to the pond.

He let me off behind my truck, shook hands and before he pulled away he asked if I could e-mail him the picture. I said that is a small price to pay, it would be my pleasure.

As I put my camera in my bag I smiled and thought all and all it had been a good day. That was until I got into the truck, there under the wiper was a parking ticket…JUST TOO #^$&^% PERFECT.

Artwork Comments

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