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We all have one of those moments when we wonder why we bother with this hobby. You know, the kind of “less than zero” moment when you begin to question if it's really all worthwhile.
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I had been in New Zealand for a couple of weeks just relaxing and taking photographs. Not too far from where I was staying was a small grove of trees that I thought would be worth exploring a little further for some possible photos.
The day was a little dreary and I had missed the golden hour in the morning, but that's not always a big problem in a shady forested setting so I decided to get my gear together and go exploring. I packed two camera bodies, a couple of lenses, a tripod and an umbrella. Packing them all on the quad bike, I started heading up to the grove on the other end of the farm where I was staying, with the weather starting to look a little ominous.
It was wet season in New Zealand so the ground was quite muddy, but the fields were very green too. It was very isolated and a very relaxing place to spend some time. Wearing Wellington boots, as they do on farms down there, meant that the mud was no big problem either.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten to check if the quad bike had enough fuel, which of course, according to Murphy's Law, it didn't.
No big problem. While I was in a paddock with a couple of bulls, they were a fair distance away and there was a wooden step built to get over the fence and to safety about 20 meters away.
The rain started coming down a little harder so I put up the umbrella (one of those nice, big, expensive graphite ones), put my camera pack on my back and carried the tripod in my other hand. I started off towards the step.
I swear, the mud didn't look that deep when I stepped in it, but it was enough to bury my Wellington boot up to mid-calf. No big problem when both hands a free to balance and help you get out, but remember, I had a tripod in one hand and a big open umbrella in the other as well as all of my camera gear on my back.
It started raining harder and the wind picked up.
Perhaps more worryingly, the bulls at the other side of the paddock started to get curious and move towards me.
It was also pretty clear that my foot was stuck in the mud quite firmly. With the bulls getting nearer, I was starting to get nervous.
I put the umbrella down resigning myself to getting a little wetter from the rain which, by this point, was coming down quite hard. The wind blew the umbrella away towards the fence.
With the bulls getting to an uncomfortable distance, I made the decision to abandon the boot and make my way with haste to the step over the fence wearing one Wellington boot and one muddied sock, while grabbing the umbrella on the way.
I was starting to worry about my camera gear getting wet, so I took it off my back while walking and held my camera bag in the same hand as the tripod while protecting it from the rain with the umbrella in my other hand.
The step wasn't too far, but the bulls, sensing my growing alarm, were coming towards me a bit more quickly now.
Now the step itself was simply three pieces of wood in a frame through the fence so you could step onto it, over the fence and then onto the other side of it. Unfortunately, it was soaking, worn and muddy – not exactly a stable thing to step onto when you're carrying a couple of thousand dollars in camera gear, wearing one muddy boot with pouring rain and driving wind and rushing so you don't get gored by a bull.
I stepped onto it with my booted foot which promptly slid straight off banging my knee.
After much cursing, I stepped onto it with my muddied, socked foot which at least had more grip.
One of the bulls started to snort and kick the ground with it's hoof.
I heaved myself onto the step and threw my booted foot over the fence with freedom and safety only inches away now.
I was muddied, soaked and panicked, but i knew my gear was still dry so it was all good.
Astride the fence with my large umbrella in one hand, my camera bag and tripod in the other, I made a most unfortunate discovery.
The wire fence between my legs was coursing with enough electricity to make a two thousand pound bull flinch.
Now I took the first jolt on the inner thigh, but to my own credit I kept my spot on the step, but now I was overbalancing and the wire was inches away from… well, let's just say I was in a bad place.
I had no choice but to make the leap off the step into the mud while tying to throw myself clear of the electrified fence and away from the bulls.
In an effort to save my gear, I put both of my arms to one side as I landed on my side – of course in even more mud. It was the lowest moment of my photographic history.
I eventually managed to make it to the grove of trees (muddy, wet and without a boot) and get some shots, but the one legged walk back to the farmstead was slow and explaining why I was covered in mud and missing a boot was a little embarrassing.
I was cold, wet, muddy and thoroughly humiliated. But at least I saved my gear and got some shots.