Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Photo I Didn't Take: Strix Varia

Barred Owl

Photo of the Strix Varia, aka the "Barred Owl", courtesy of Wikipedia

We all hear it echo in the back of our heads, "The best camera is the one you have with you." You can't take a photo if you don't have that camera within easy reach (or even within reach at all). And we've all done it. Gotten in a hurry, I mean. Gotten so frazzled that we were late or that we thought we wouldn't need it, so it stayed in the camera bag sitting on the kitchen table. Back at the house. 20 miles away.

That's where my camera was on Saturday night. Sitting there, all pristine and warm and cozy with the 50mm f1.8 slapped on it on this chilled Central Texas winter's night. I looked at it right before I walked out of the house thinking I wouldn't need it. You see, I was going to a Christmas party and didn't want to burden myself with having to play the camera guy for the evening. I've been roped into doing that before. It's fun when I want it to be. But this night, I wanted to relax and enjoy myself, not worry about recording the evening for one and all to cherish.

... and out the door I went.

My friend's place is out in the boonies. Far enough out of town that you can begin to see the stars again, but not so far out that the light pollution is gone and you can see the Milky Way. Close, yet so far. Their place is a bit set back from the road. And by a bit, I mean, you turn onto their drive way and travel for another five minutes as it winds back through the narrow strip of land that leads back to the rest of the ranch. Half-way there, you come to a small one-lane concrete bridge that they built over a wet weather creek.

So, like I normally do whenever I'm out there at night, I'm driving slow, driving careful, high beams on so I don't hit anything that looks like a skunk, and making sure I don't bottom the car out on the drive way. This night was no different. But then, it was.

As I said, I don't like speeding on their property. It's rude. Plus, with the recent rain, the driveway was a bit torn up coming up to the bridge. I took it slow and was creeping up onto it, avoiding the mud and the bottomless puddles.

I almost missed it.

The owl, I mean.

It was fully illuminated in my headlights, not more than five feet from the hood of my car. It just sat there, looking at me intently, perched all by it's lonesome on the bridge guard rail. It stared and stared, as if it was willing me to turn off those blinding deer illuminators bolted to the front of my car.

The first instinct was to gently hit the brake. Check.

The second instinct was to reach over and grab the camera with my nice, wide open 50mm and get a photo or three before the owl flew off.

I reached. And felt. And scrambled. And where the camera wasn't, a glass plate of brownies was. CRAP! My camera, my trusty sidekick ... was AWOL. And then I remembered.

It was at home. 20 miles away. In the warmth of the house.

I knew it was back there, silently mocking me. If Nikon had an Easter egg in it's bodies, that Easter egg would be a voice chip and speaker that would laugh hilariously at you whenever you needed the camera most, but failed to keep it at hand.

So, I just sat there, watching the owl watch me back. It was a face off for no more than a dozen seconds. And with that, he leapt from his post guarding the bridge to fly off into the pitch black darkness that wasn't pierced by my headlights.

And this, my dear reader, is why it's important to always have your camera. Because when you're faced with an owl in the dead of night, you want to have something to remember it by. Otherwise, it becomes the photo you didn't take.

And before you ask, it might not have been Strix Varia. I'm pretty sure it was based on the coloring, the markings, and photos of the common owls in Central Texas. But hey. I could be wrong. It was still pretty !@#$% cool to see an owl in the dead of night.


Das Wookie said...

Damn, sorry man!

I have the same problem, plus the wife's "You aren't REALLY bringing that thing to XXXX are you?!" syndrome.

Travis Campbell said...

Yeah, this one was my own fault. I have no one to blame but myself, sadly. Next time, though!