Ok, so I've learned this the hard way more than a few times myself. But after the experience of yesterday, I thought I'd just throw a little reminder out there for other camera enthusiasts staring through a lens. And yes, it's on the long side but hopefully worth the reminder. (story images below)
WATCH YOUR STEP!
Yes! Watch your step but mostly, where you step, how you step and maybe even when you step as you're looking through your camera. All too many times it happens. You're composing an image, you know you're on the edge of something, a little too close to something else maybe. And, although you're aware, the subject matter through the lens takes your attention away from your surroundings for just a hair longer than expected or longer and "damn! it! ouch ouch ouch!" as was my case yesterday (that's the cleaned up version - if you knew me at all). We'll get to that in a sec.
So, I'm outdoors quite a bit, I've been behind a camera for decades. Despite nature's and well, gravity's attempts to educate me, I've had to learn this lesson many times over with some really close calls. Obviously, you want the clearest view, the "just a little more..." angle, and the "if I could just lean over...Ohhhhh shitttttt!". Yep, it happens, you slip. Not because you didn't know, you saw it, you knew. But you forgot what a hold the composition through the lens has on you, and you lose focus (see what I did there) for a split second and everything changes.
There are obviously tragic or near tragic instances. The 127 Hours movie always plays in the back of my mind, especially when I'm far out and isolated. But, yes, I've had my share of experiences. From sliding down the face of Preacher Mountain in Washington State on my back, not seeing where I was going to land, unable to control the decent or direction, only to hit a stream full force with all my gear. "Glad it was that direction and not the other", but not in my hands at all. Completely soaked, having to then hike out another 2-3 miles, so very cold and sore with soggy shoes but glad to be alive. Or, the ever so confident yet epic fail of jumping from rock to rock across a stream, only for the slick as ice coating of algae to send you slap into a concussion and near broken leg. Or, slipping into the heart of a waterfall, shattering lenses happens more than you realize (yup, I did that). It's not just me, this happens to some very experienced and talented people that do this more than I. Obviously, one tries to avoid it but half of the whole process that makes you different than anyone else, is learning and adapting as you go. You just have to learn fast, accidents and incidents happen. However, I want to remind you that it doesn't have to be some obscure isolated place. There's also the everyday things that can be more dangerous.
Take my most recent experience (please), the day before yesterday (mentioned in the opening). I performed a near dead center strike in the heart of a fire ant hill with my boot. Obviously, oblivious to me because it was buried in the deep grass around a flower I was photographing or I would have definitely avoided it. However, what normally would have only taken a second or two to grab quick (amazing) photo, turned into a minute or four because a carpenter bee showed up. Oh joy! (there went my attention span) because I'm about to get a bee on a flower!! And as I'm trying macro focus on that bee that's buzzing around this flower, both moving in awkward synchronization to the wind. Me trying to move with them to find a focus that changes by microns. I feel it. The first of many fire ant bites. Of course I normally wear some 3/4 ankle high boots, so by the time the ants get to anything they can bite (that I'll feel), well, let's just say there's an ungodly amount of ants protecting their colony. Let the dance begin! Yep, I have no shame, anything with an ant flies off as I begin smacking the hell out of myself. It must be quite the site to behold I'm certain! But you survive.
Fast forward just one day. I got some ok shots the previous day. I even got the bee on the flower shot. But the weather this day was playing awkward with the light, perfect time to go back and see something new; maybe a bee without ants. So, ever alert, having been harshly reminded the day before to watch for ants hidden in the grass along with whatever else is hidden in the grass also (since we're being extra careful). I stumble upon some dragonflies. " Oh, great, this is a challenge, let's try". They're struggling in the wind, so they only really jettison from their perch if they have to but they're a bit delicate as well, so their wings are just being blown in awkward positions and you begin to dance between two dragonflies as they dance on little flowers, do their dive bombing dips into puddles, or even as they lie flat on the ground, trying to stay low out of the wind. See there... our attention is being divided. That's how easy it happens. But I'm looking, I don't see any fire ant hills. No alligators, no cliff edges, I'm not even close to the water. Suddenly, "SMACK!" I completely obliterated whatever it was that just mildy stung my arm (thinking mosquitos), but there's nothing left to decipher.
I capture a few more images then I'm back in the vehicle, I start to itch a bit more now that I'm not focused (did it again) on dragonflies. However, I begin to notice some small welts forming and think... "Dang, those mosquitoes are going to be brutal this year, they really tore me up"... And honestly, I'm a little upset because I normally carry all kinds of first aid ointments, Cortizone10, Benydryl capsules, etc... However, I just received my vehicle back from service and had previously cleaned it out prior to the auto shop visit and hadn't put anything back into the FJ quite yet. Ooops. Yeah, oops as the welts begin to grow. I see a couple more things of interest but I'm beginning to feel a little "meh" so I decide I'm done, and start heading for home. Within 20 minutes, the welts have swollen larger and larger as my breathing starts to become a bit erratic (I have asthma so this would have been a great time for my inhaler... oops it's with the other stuff at home). Then even though I know panic is useless, the body can't help itself when it's trying to get oxygen, it tries harder, then harder and it all goes pretty much downhill from there. Obviously, I survived, but only with help from someone very dear to me who arrived within a moments notice to help. I never learned what stung me, I wouldn't know what to hide/run from next time. There's no real bite or sting site but the skin is super sensitive and the arm where I smacked whatever it was is still very sore (guessing when I smacked it, it pumped whatever remained into my arm). Stings happen, you expect some of that. However, I will for sure double check that I have at least the basic of medical supplies in my camera bag next time. A lesson I had already learned before, hence the kit in the first place.
I'm near edges of waterfalls (always slippery), alligators (way quicker than you'd think), on rooftops or near automobile/city traffic quite often taking photos. Yep, there can be a certain "rush" or thrill that comes with climbing over that something to get a better shot of whatever, finding that angle a tourist can't get. And even though you can be careful, there's always that forceful gust of wind you don't expect while you're too close to an edge, a rock gives way from under your feet on a narrow trail or that car that almost clipped you because you stepped off the curb trying to frame up that city shot because composing through the camera took your attention away from your surroundings.
So, if you're in the city, watch the traffic, in the backyard, watch the sprinkler. If you're going into the woods, desert, etc..., at a minimum, pack some basics beyond camera gear. Antihistamines are always a plus, some sort of extra Cliff bar or something for when you twist your ankle and have to stay somewhere a bit and always make sure water is the first thing you grab (always take more than you think you'll need). Obviously I pack differently depending on where I'm going and normally as light as possible. So, it's never enough, it's merely the basic essentials, but paying attention to your surrounding is the best way to eliminate the need for most emergency gear.
On that note, go, be free, try to be safe! Show the world how you see it!