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Humor in the Field

Text and Photography Copyright Donna Bollenbach
All rights reserved.

Camera:    Nikon F90x
Lens:        300/4 Nikkor w/TC 1.4
Flash:       None used
Support:    Bogen 3021 tripod
Film:         Fuji Sensia 100
Exposure:  f/4, shutter unrecorded
Filter(s):     None used

As a nature photographer I have learned not to take myself too seriously. From mishaps to mistakes, to getting myself in awkward predicaments, I have had the choice to cry, blush or laugh at myself, and usually I choose the latter. (Well, sometimes I do blush while laughing.)

Like the time I lamented over the loss of my brand new remote shutter release, until I found it two weeks later in one of the many pockets of my photo-vest. Or the time I was in old, baggy clothes with mud up to my knees, taking photos in the canal by my home. A passing neighbor called my husband to warn, “There is a strange lady down in your ditch.” Or even the time when I tried crossing a muddy marsh to get close to some birds and got both feet stuck fast in the mud. Trying to pull them out I fell flat in the water, holding my camera high and dry above my head, of course.

But whenever I see this photo, and any of the others I took that day, I will be reminded of a really awkward and funny moment--

I woke my 11 year-old son at 5:30 am so he could accompany me on a nature hike at a local park where I like to photograph. We arrived just after sunrise and I was delighted to see nearly a hundred birds feeding in the pond near the trail’s head. While my son snoozed in the front seat, I grabbed my camera, longest lens, teleconverter, tripod, a large piece of camouflage fabric and a floppy black hat. I had bought the hat at a garage sale the day before. It was only a quarter, looked new, and seemed perfect to block the glare of the low-lying sun from my eyes while looking through the viewfinder.

I put the tripod in its lowest position, knelt in front of it and draped the camouflage fabric over the front of the tripod. I put on my bargain hat and advanced, knee by knee, toward the birds. I spent over an hour shooting, moving forward, stopping, shooting, and moving forward. At first the birds hardly noticed me, but as I got closer some became restless, so periodically I stopped and sat, nearly motionless, until they resumed feeding. As the sun got higher in the sky and I was losing the good light, I advanced further toward the birds. Some simply walked in the opposite direction to keep their distance, others flew to the other side of the pond. Realizing I was as close as I was going to get that day, I finished the roll of film in my camera and retreated.

My son was awake now and ready to hike. He joined me at the back of the car while I switched to a lighter camera lens for our walk. I took off my hat and dropped it in the truck. “Mom,” my son asked sheepishly, ”What does that say on your hat?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, looking toward the hat, “ I bought it at a garage sale and I didn’t even pay atten” I stopped short. There, emblazoned in red letters on a white patch at the front of the hat were the letters

“Oh, my gosh. “ I said turning toward my son in embarrassed surprise. Then my astonishment quickly turned to a big grin. “Well, at least that explains why those birds wouldn’t let me get any closer!” We both laughed, and I think we’ll still be laughing about that one for a long time to come!


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