Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Brave and Stupid

"Face to Face" by Wes Aldridge

Photographers are a different breed, we know this much. But sometimes to get the shot, a photog or two have been known to do stupid things and put their lives in danger. Well, I'm guilty as charged.

Enter Rufus. That is the fine reptile in the shot above. Rufus once lived in the lagoon around the 12th hole of Indigo Run Plantation Golf Course in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where my aunt and uncle reside. Rufus was removed along with all of the other gators in the plantation because they were getting too large and dangerous. Before that, Rufus intrigued me. I wanted to get a shot of him, but he would swim off whenever I tried to walk up to the lagoon and get close enough for a shot (this was before the days of my 70-200mm f/2.8). So, Rufus had to be taken by stealth, or stalking as I like to call it.

My family watched as I slung my camera across my back and assumed the position for my army man-style belly crawl to Rufus. I started on behind a little hill that banked down to the lagoon. I crawled through critters, crud and Carolina heat at sloth's pace, staying face in the dirt, to not scare Rufus away. After a good hour of inching (literally moving about an inch every couple of seconds) my way to the lagoon, I was pretty close to him. He just floated, head half submerged, and watched with his dead black eyes. I was so excited and slowly pulled my camera around to try a shot. Well, you know me and too much can never be enough, so naturally I needed to get closer for a more full framed shot.

I looked every once and again at my family with faces pressed to the patio window watching me make my way to the gator. Yeah, they anxiously stood there and watched me move inches that entire time. Finally I reached the edge of the lagoon, my elbows actually in a few inches of water, and my feet elevated on the slope of the hill well above my head. Then, my sweet mother leans her head out the door and harken this single warning, "Wes, get your ass up. That gator can grab you and drag you under that water before you can even get up on your knees to try and run." I thought she was just being that worried mom-type. Then I realized, oh cripes, that big sucker is less than 10 feet from me, and mom is probably right since the gator was about 8 feet long. I am not very good at math, but I did a simple equation with the numbers here and thought, I better get the heck outta dodge... after a couple of more frames first.

Mom leans her head out again and simple said "Wes" in that tone all sons know very well from their mothers. Right then, Rufus started to float a little closer and I sprang up to me feet and jumped back a good few yards. I thought my heart was going to pop out of my chest.

So, what is it about getting those dangerous shots? Are we adrenaline junkies at the center of our souls? Are we fools wasting film, and the possibility of life, on things that don't really matter? Do we just love to taste death by really living life? Well, you decide what's true for you. As for me, it is an addiction that I foresee clearing up anytime soon.