By Otha Barham
The Meridian Star
Thank goodness for memory. Were it not for my memory, I would have no personal evidence of many events in the outdoors that occurred while either I or the person with me had a camera but failed to make a photo while encountering exceptional opportunities.
I was running an insect control program for the government near the border between Utah and Colorado when I had an interesting encounter with a golden eagle. The staff officer for my program was down from Washington to view my work on the Mormon cricket infestation. He had his camera with a telephoto lens attached and was photographing everything in sight in the beautiful back country of the west slope of the Rockies.
Craig, Colorado, which held three restaurants, was some 60 miles east. So at lunch time we stopped in a rocky draw and pulled out my chuck box which was always stocked with plenty of food. About that time we spotted a golden eagle approaching us in a long, descending glide. We both gawked as he said, “It’s talons are down!”
The eagle glided right past us just overhead and straight into the ground. As the eagle’s wings struck the waist-high sagebrush, a mule deer fawn jumped up and took off. It’s mother leaped up from her bed nearby and joined her fawn in flight. The eagle became momentarily entangled in the tough, gnarly sagebrush which had deflected its talons from their precise aim at the little deer’s throat.
As the eagle flew away to search for an easier meal, my friend realized he had his camera in his hand but was so captivated by the incident that he forgot to shoot a photo.
Speaking of eagles, I recall letting another eagle photo get away from me. I was scouting for elk on northwest Colorado’s Cold Spring Mountain when I spotted an eagle perched on a tall rock. The bird was close enough for my camera lens and was right on the apex of the outcropping overlooking the steep mountainside that dropped away for a couple thousand feet.
The western sky behind the eagle formed perfect backlighting for a sterling photograph. While I admired the stately bird it pitched from its perch and sailed off the mountainside, diving downward at a 45 degree angle without flapping a wing. I watched, wide-eyed as it disappeared and returned to view twice as it followed the contours of the cliff.
On the third reappearance, the eagle had a partner. Another of the great birds had joined him on its descent and together they sailed down and down until they disappeared into the dark valley below. It was when I finally exhaled that I realized I had a camera in my hand.
Another couple of missed photographing chances happened with black bears. One bear in the North Park area of Colorado jumped up from feeding under logs he was flipping over. I had heard him grunting and thought he was a bull elk, an animal that sometimes stands around grunting apparently just to proclaim his supremacy. The bear was big and black. When he saw me he quickly decided that he needed to be somewhere else. He snapped big limbs from blowdowns as he hightailed it out of that part of the Gore Range. My camera was handy in a pouch on my belt. I grabbed it and struck out running after the bruin to try for a photo. Too late. He was too quick on his feet.
One fall I was waiting for a wild boar to come to a green patch planted on a Tennessee mountainside by the game department. I heard a loud crashing and turned around to see a black bear arriving at the patch from a steep, rocky slope. The bear only took a bite or two from the lush forage as he crossed the field on his way to somewhere down slope. I grabbed my camera and found him in the view finder just as he reached the wood line.
I snapped a couple of shots as he slowed before disappearing into the woods. When I had the film developed, I only had a black dot in each of my photographs. In my haste to get a picture, I had forgotten to zoom my lens.
One might conclude from these episodes that I am not much of an outdoor photographer. One would be correct. I get too excited at the moment of truth.
My memories are all that I have to preserve the images. And I am very grateful for that mental file cabinet