At this time of the year everyone’s making lists for Santa including Dad and me. If Dad would stop eating all of the cookies I make we’d even leave the jolly old fellow a smorgasbord of goodies just to grease the skids, so to speak, because we have a few things that would make our holidays bright.
Dad and I always wanted a picture of the elusive elegant trogon. Just one elegant trogon. Please Santa? That’s all we want.
We had come close, but something always got in the way. But this time was different. Our intel was solid: The trogon came every day to the choke cherry bush 15 paces from the intersection of the Carrie Nation and Vault Mine trails in Arizona’s Madera Canyon.
Confident in our sources, Dad, Mom and I hiked up the steep trail at 5 a.m. one cold morning, found the choke cherry bush and hunkered down to wait for the bird. Excitement was building. We could actually hear not one but two trogons calling to each other as they made their way down the canyon.
Camera. Check. Camouflage. Check. Silence. Check.
And then we heard the hikers. A loud conversation took place between the man and the woman, while the man lauded the beauty and uniqueness of every flower they found on the trail. As the voices drew closer, the birds faded out. In fact, we heard them calling back and forth, heading back up the canyon as fast as they could, probably snickering about hapless photographers.
Meanwhile the clueless hikers stumbled upon two frustrated photographers and their companion crouched in the shrubs along the trail. It might have looked like a scene from “Criminal Minds”. Maybe. The report of missing hikers was greatly exaggerated.
Trade You a Trogon for a Bear
On another adventure to locate the elusive elegant trogon, we found ourselves in Huachuca Canyon patiently waiting in the shrubs while Mom quietly sat at a picnic table not too far away. Nothing. Not a single bird could be heard.
About 20 minutes later I noticed what I thought was a javelina ambling down the dirt road toward us. As it got closer, I realized it was a little bigger than a javelina. Actually it kinda looked like a bear. Yes, a bear.
Dad and I made eye contact with each other and then froze. I began a frantic mental review of bear encounter tips. Don’t run. No problem. I was glued to the spot.
Make lots of noise to let the bear know you’re there. Nope. That bear was too close. That didn’t seem like a good idea, especially as it wandered about 50 feet from Mom who was sitting in plain view. But the bear acted as if she weren’t there and moved on to the berry bush behind us.
After watching the said bush shake vigorously for a few minutes, our trio quietly crept back to the van and jetted out of the canyon. In the shock of the moment neither Dad nor I took a picture of the bear, and we certainly didn’t shoot a picture of an elegant trogon. The shoot was a bust.
So Santa, if you could send a trogon our way this Christmas we’d be mighty happy. If the trogon’s too much trouble could you at least give us a really nice, safe lightning photograph?
Killer Lightning, Please
Last summer Dad and I trekked through Utah, Colorado and New Mexico on our “Great Southwest Photo Adventure”. We photographed multiple amazing locations. Dad also hoped for a killer lightning shot (no pun intended) during the afternoon monsoon storms.
We’d wrapped up two weeks of travel and still no lightning. But we decided to stop at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico for some landscape shots on our way back to Texas. As we pulled into the parking lot we noticed storm clouds building far, far away. It looked like we’d have time for a short hike.
We set out on the Cave Trail, a 1.2 mile hike, that wanders close to the white cliffs and fantastical cone shaped spires. About 1 mile down the trail, a brisk wind kicked up, cooling us off from the sweltering August temperatures.
Both of us have been out in the desert during monsoon season. We realized that wind might feel nice, but it could spell trouble. Dad kept one eye on the skies while I picked up the pace so we could at least get a panoramic shot before a storm hit.
Off in the distance, I heard a faint rumble of thunder. It galvanized me into action. I shot pictures like a paparazzi on a bender. Horizon line straight? Who cares? We can fix it in Photoshop. Just shoot, shoot, shoot!
Then like the spaceship scene in “Independence Day” a very dark, very ominous cloud crested the ridge of the mountains and blotted out the sun. Our heads swiveled up and our mouths dropped open simultaneously. The cloud hovered over the far end of the mountains while throwing out lightning bolts left and right.
This wasn’t just a little rain shower. This was a storm. With little grace or coordination Dad and I raced back down the trail to the parking lot praying all the while that we wouldn’t end up on the evening news as fried photographers.
To our utter amazement and horror a grandmother with two children headed up the trail and toward the storm. As we ran past them my exact thoughts were,” What?! That. Is. Crazy!!!!” We almost mentioned the storm to them, but by then it was pretty obvious something big was about to happen. So we kept running as lightning started to get uncomfortably close to us.
Just as the first big, fat raindrops hit us, we skidded to a stop at the van. We threw our gear in the back and slammed the doors as the sky just opened up and all heck broke lose.
Boy that was one doozy of a storm. Lightning, flood conditions and hail. We dodged it on the way to the van, on the way out of the park and waiting on the side of the road when the rain came down so hard we couldn’t see. Dad got his lightning. But when you’re in the middle of the storm, lightning photos are pretty hard to get because you’re too busy trying not to get killed.
So Santa, this year we’d really like some lightning photos that we don’t require dodging bolts of said lightning.
If you can deliver an elegant trogon and lightning photos, I’ll leave you a whole batch of my best gingerbread cookies. Well, unless Dad beats you to it. But they say it’s the thought that counts, right?