“If Something Can Go Wrong It Probably Will”-Kevin McNeal
Welcome back to those who have had a chance to read some of the Photo Cascadia photoblogs. Well I have come to the conclusion after several articles and blogs I am not that person who will ever be good at writing how-to articles in photography. The one thing though that seems to happen to me are crazy stories that seem to follow me where I ever I go. So I thought I would start sharing some of my stories that people might get a laugh out of and maybe even learn something. So enjoy!
Last year I was lucky enough to get a month photographing back east in New England shooting fall colors. I was able to visit the states of New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. So after weeks and months of preparing to get everything just right for this trip I was ready. I had one of everything so nothing would be missed or so I thought. My first stop, the Adirondacks in New York to shoot Heart Lake. Ever since I saw the cover to Anthony Cooks’ book “Fall Colors Across North America” of Heart Lake I made this my mission for the last four years.
Heart Lake can best be seen by a moderate hike that leads you to this plateau that overlooks endless hills and color with a stunning lake situated in the middle of this paradise. Now I want to say up front that anywhere in the Adirondacks in autumn is beautiful but for me nothing was going to stop me from getting to photograph Heart Lake.
As I pulled in to the trailhead weather started to turn for the worse and the clouds were moving in. I would now have to run up this trail trying to get something to shoot before the mountain peaks were covered in fog. So without much thought to it I grabbed my bag and hit the trailhead. So far I was making good time and things were looking up; I started to think maybe I might get this “dream picture”.
It was at that point things turned upside down; rain was now coming down in buckets and the muddy trail was turning into a mudslide making it near impossible to get up the trail. It did not matter I was not going to be stopped. As fate would have it rain turned into snow and now I was heading into unsafe terrority.
Mount Joe In The Adirondacks Immersed In Fog
Parts of the trail were falling apart on me and I turned to my tripod for support. I was using it to get down a short descent on an otherwise uphill battle. I had come across some steep boulders that were surrounded by wet mud. As I placed my tripod right were I needed it for support – it snapped! I was using a lighter tripod due to traveling restrictions. So here I was inches away from my dream shot and no tripod. Make things worse I had cut my head and made things more difficult for my hip. The problem was this my only tripod; I decided to make the best of it using available sticks and my camera bag for support. Things were not going well and I was getting desperate.
The thought I was day one into a month long trip and no tripod was not fairing too well. With blood dripping, rain pounding, and weather only getting worse I headed back down the mountain with only a few satisfactory shots (not the compositions I was looking for). I now could not move fast due to my hip and being a bit disoriented.
So now time was my enemy again and I had to get out before dark. I know what you are thinking; get out your headlamp or flashlight. Well that would have been great except I forgot to get those out of the suitcase due to my rush to get to the top of the mountain. So I was now getting close to pure darkness and no compass, directions, and map to find my way down. I would have just followed the trail down if there was one but due to the rain that was sporadic at best. Well an hour later and the fear of God in me I made it down promising not to ever do this again. I ended up making the last bit by bushwhacking.
At last my car was in sight and I had forgotten all about my tripod and I was just thankful to get down the mountain. As I threw my wet clothes off I noticed the trunk was open; I had not closed it in my haste rush to get up the mountain. Things had been taken but nothing I could not have replaced. At least I had my camera with me and I was off to Vermont to look for a new tripod.
The next day while in Vermont I started to make my search for a new tripod and I was not near any camera stores. Who would have known no camera stores in Vermont or at least where I was. So I decided to break the cardinal rule of photography and handhold my camera using a higher ISO. This worked in midday but the minute the light got low I was in trouble. So I spent the first week without a tripod and only middle of the day shots.
While I was shooting at the infamous Jenne Farm in Vermont I had run into a group of photographers who were also traveling. After talking for a bit and noticing I was not using a tripod, they suggested I purchase one. I then explained what had happened and one of the guys offered me his second tripod to use. It was amazing someone was generous enough to allow me to borrow a tripod. After shooting had finished I returned the tripod only to be met with the most unselfish thing that has ever happened to me while doing this business. He told me to hang on to his tripod for the remainder of the trip and mail it back when it was convenient. I was truly at a loss for words and will always be thankful to him for that. The next few days were spent revisiting the places I had shot handheld; now I was a man with a tripod reading to photograph.
My fellow Photo Cascadia member, Adrian Klein best summed it up when he relayed to me “if something can wrong, it probably will- that is Murphy’s Law” especially if you only bring one of everything. I never forgot that one important saying. I now travel with two of everything including tripods thanks to my not so smart antics.