See, the problem with being a photographer is that the equipment is so easily portable. I take all my equipment, everywhere. Normally I'd never complain about my job. Heck, I'd say I have the best one in the world. I'm a roaming photographer, rostered on semi-regularly with a few big-brand websites and various travel magazines. My job? Explore. Santorini, Quebec, Brighton, Marseilles. My agent hands me a plane ticket, an itinerary, and a hostel address. It's an interesting life, to be sure. The locals are usually a bit wary of a chap who carries top-of-the-line photography equipment everywhere. No one likes interviewers. But they tend to warm up a bit once I explain my job and get started answering the inevitable questions. I've spent a sight more time in small-town bars than even lads my age would. Rumours are usually confirmed or dispelled by the locals there, and I've found a fair few incredible hidden eateries through new friends there (which I'm often made to promise to never reveal). Often, though, I'll simply ask for directions to some-place picturesque, yet secluded. Life isn't stress-free, wouldn't you know. Oh, I could tout these places as the new must-visit spots for whichever city, town or country I happen to be in. But I don't. Some things in life are sacred. Secrets from locals, anonymity. My beloved camera. Which is why the biggest adventure of my life comes not from trekking through the Alps or boating in Venice, enjoying Beignets in New Orleans or marvelling at Uluru, but from tracking my camera across England.
It was a rare week off. It had been a slow August for work anyway, the summer nearly over. I had been recently in Oahu, specifically Halona Cove, one of the best, secluded beaches in Hawaii. A magazine had challenged me to take as many unique shots as I was able of a few select beaches around the area. Halona had been a special case, since it had a cave. Luckily I had managed to both rent a drone for some in-cave shots and a nab a ride on a helicopter for high aerial shots. A few would go to the magazine, a few I'd keep for myself. There was a prestigious naturalistic photography competition on in Sweden a few weeks from the shoot in Oahu, which I intended to participate in. But first, I needed more shots. I'd heard great things about Dava Moor, near the Cairngorms in Northern Scotland. And it just so happened that the multinational top tier of the competition had set the criterion for two photos per continent. Dava Moor it was--though I sorely regretted it later. It was actually the first place I ever inadvertently left my camera. That there was a bull, how was I to know. I'd been picturing sprawling low hills, rolling grass and sparkling rivers. Of course, there was all that. But there was also someone's prize bull, which had escaped that morning. It was the camera bag or my neck, and the neck, I was unfortunately very attached to. When I arrived, panting, at my hired car, the local driver lounging chuckled at my predicament, and advised leaving the 'damn camera.' Which the photos from Oahu were still on.
Cursing quietly, I climbed into the car and we drove to find the harried owner, who promptly refused to retrieve the wayward bull and sent us on our way with a few skillful insults, adding as an afterthought that he'd send the camera to Aviemore if he ever found it. Well. Needless to say, I waited in Aviemore for nearly a week, before giving up and heading off the coast to the island of Islay, filled with a much-needed batch of warm-hearted people, cozy pubs, and gorgeous views. Luckily I had had enough money available to purchase an upper mid-range camera, similar to the poor baby I had left stuck on a moor and guarded by a bull. Yet who should I get a call from then, but the local who drove me in Aviemore. The camera had arrived in the town the day after I had left and he had shipped it to Glasgow. So, on to Glasgow I went, a week left until the photography competition. By now I had experienced so many let-downs I had resolved to only participate in the lower-level brackets of the competition, since I was missing the set of Oahu photos. But the news of my beloved camera on its way to Glasgow had unexpectedly lightened my spirits. I holed up in a lovely little hostel to await its arrival at an inner-city post office. It wasn't a bad time by a long shot. Tendrils of ivy hung invitingly outside the hostel windows, the garden a gorgeous ramble of wildflowers, herbs, sprawling tomato plants and the odd weed here or there. Regulars at the neighborhood pub heartily approved my abashed retelling of the bull on the moor and adventures in Hawaii.
It was the first truly relaxing stint in a long time. Until my camera arrived and the bus started rolling again. The poor thing was in a box--mangled, you know. The bull had trod on it quite horribly. Miraculously, the memory card was unbent and intact inside the camera. I'll never know how. That bull had a vendetta, I'm telling you. I managed to download the pictures on the card before the camera had anything else happen to it, but ended up chucking the camera since the entire left side and most of the lens had been smashed. $1200 lost to a bovine. Great. But I now had both the shots for the competition and the magazine spread. That is, until my computer got stolen. It was an accident, really. MacBooks all look the same. I had been working in a Starbucks across from a stranger with the same model MacBook, but had closed mine in favour of a real book. She had closed hers, shoved it towards the middle where mine was, and had gone to get a refill. Deeply immersed in my book, I vaguely registered that she had come back, taken her computer and packed her things, leaving the shop. Except it was my computer she had taken, though I didn't realise until I next booted the MacBook up. Surprise, surprise. Tracking down my own computer took time, effort, multiple phone calls, ads and covert Craiglist queries. Glasgow works fast, however, and before three days the inadvertent thief and I met up in the same Starbucks to exchange computers, just before I boarded my plane to Sweden, relieved and exhausted with two days to spare, which I pledged to mostly spend in the delightfully mismatched String Cafe of Stockholm.
I never did win uppermost bracket of the competition. But I got quite a few laughs from the judges with the story of a trek across the UK, courtesy of an overgrown cow.