'Just Kickin' It! ' - A Photographic Essay - Poem by Kelly Seale
I was kickin' down this ol' dirt road one day after work, warm Southwestern sun shinin' down upon my face, playin' an occasional game of hide-n-seek with the clouds above. The remnants of the warm Santa Ana winds blowin' mildly through my topless jeep named Isabel. Ice-cold drink in my hand, keepin' my lips wet and my thirst at bay.
A family of Gambel's Quail nervously skittered across the road in front of me. Instinct kicks in; and within a flash of a second, I had my camera at the ready. 'Snap! ' The shutter releases. 'Snap! Snap! ' The last shot captures nothin' but dust.
I pulled Isabel to a stop, but it's too late, the mother hen and her brood are safe in the thicket. Not lettin' opportunity slip away, I climb out for a look around, and I noticed a dried-up desert arroyo; where at one time, water must've flowed. All that remains is earth's wrinkled skin; crackled mud, parched. 'Snap! ' The image in my mind, transferred into digital reality like magic.
I follow a small butterfly; whose dipsy-doodle flight from flower to flower, bush to bush, mocks my haphazard attempt to get close enough for a good shot. She lands upon a prickly somethin' or other, and I let her magic in. 'Snap! Snap! Snap! ' She winks at me as she continues her journey. 'Thank you Miss, ' I smile back.
Under a yucca plant, a discarded bottle of Crown Royal lay hidden like exposed buried treasure. 'Snap! ' I stash the empty bottle in my pack, relieving the yucca of the burden. As opportunity would have it; I decided to changes lenses on my camera, and catching me off-guard and fumblin' with my gear, a desert hare hops out into the open. 'Click! ' Lens on. 'Zoom! Snap! ' The desert hare hip hopped off to more important matters.
A pile of rocks captures my curiosity; and as I scramble up and on a set of boulders, pack off, shirt off, letting the warm spring breeze mingle with my sweat, I dig in my pack and pull the tab on another cold drink. It's not quite as cold as the first; but still, nothin' in the world tastes better at that moment. The solitude is almost overwhelming.
'Damn! ' I say to the lizard, who just darted out from underneath the rocks across from me. 'This is it! This is the place to be! ' I announced, half expectin' him to reply back to me somethin' about savin' money on my auto insurance. 'Zoom! ' Snap! '
'No, that's the ‘other guy, ' he says instead.
A solitary desert flower beckons my lens. 'Snap! Zoom! Snap, ' boring. Time to get movin' again. Shirt off, pack on, legs in motion, I search for a more worthy subject.
A bird lands atop an almost barren and lonely desert tree. Camera up, auto focus in full effect, and, 'Whirr! Snap! ' The split-second of flight captured as her bright wings unfolded and she flies away. Magic. Some days, everything just comes into play, perfect. Feeling full of myself; I'm amazed at my thus far, successful shoot.
'Man, it just doesn't get any better than this! ' Famous last words.
Getting late; I start back to where I left my jeep, marveling at God's gift given to me on this perfect day. Not havin' much luck at retracing my footsteps back to the road, I cut through between two prickly bushes.
'Ouch! ' Got thorned on my bare leg. That'll teach me to wear shorts while trompin' around in the desert.
After an exclamation of a few choice words, I removed a half-inch long needle from my calf. The blood was slowly drippin' down, a small pool of red sand on the desert floor. It was almost sunset, and I knew the Vampires wouldn't care about my near perfect day. I removed my bandanna from my head and tied it around the wound to inhibit the bleeding, then continued on.
Just ahead, movement in the bushes; strange noises- or was it voices? I didn't know what to point with first; my Beretta 380 pistola, or my Canon EOS 40D? I wisely chose the latter, as a pair of badgers emerged from the bush. 'Zoom! Flash! Snap! Snap! Snap! '
'Holy Shit! ' They said, as they hauled their badger tails out of there. I was literally shaking when they had vanished into the bush again. I checked my camera, then my shorts, and was relieved to find that both were clean. Clean shots and clean shorts! I had managed to get three great shots of the badgers before they had gotten away. 'Holy Shit! ' I repeated.
By now, I could see my jeep parked just off the side of the road, but I was beginnin' to wonder if my luck was about to run out. I stopped dead in my tracks. At my feet, was a dead and decaying coyote. I couldn't tell what had killed him; man or beast, and I wasn't gonna stick around to find out. 'Whirr! Flash! Snap! '
I was relieved to get back to Isabel, and I tossed my pack in the back, and walked over to the driver's side to climb in. I froze. The sound that I heard, made my blood run cold! I am a pretty good photographer, and an even better writer, but I just don't know how to describe that sound to you. It is something that you'd have to hear for yourself; and believe me, you'd never, ever forget it.
The rattler was just a few feet from where I was standing, and that was too goddamned close! The serpent was coiled just behind my right front tire, which made me shudder, for I would've surely been hit if I had continued to step up to climb into my jeep. I backed off, and grabbed my snake tongs from the back of my jeep, and carefully inched them into position. At just the right moment, I nabbed the reptile just behind her evil looking triangular head. She was a big Mojave' rattler, and she was one mean mother!
I tossed her out in the middle of the road and she coiled up in a deadly tactical move. I grabbed my camera; for I had to get some shots of her before I died that day- uh, I mean, before she got away.. 'Whirr! , Zoom! Flash! Snap! Snap! ' I got her with a couple of double taps; then, 'Flash! Snap! Snap! Snap! ' A triple! My adrenaline was pumping full force, as was hers; rattlin' tail never ceasing, the sound echoing within the vacuum of the desert's orange-yellow skies.
'Great Job Kelly! ' I couldn't resist congratulating myself! As I calmed myself, watchin' her for a few more minutes, I was sure I had gotten some great shots. She was calming now; escape, the only thing on her mind. Ms. Mojave' recognized her moment, as she quickly uncoiled and slithered off the road and then, vanished into the desert's camouflage. 'Whoah! ' My heart still pumpin' a mile-a-minute. Wiping the cold sweat from my head, my eyes, I heard a little voice that said, 'Kelly, it's time to go! '
Snake gone, gear stowed, over twenty amazing shots frozen in time on my camera, tab popped on another cold drink to celebrate; I hit the engine on Isabel, and headed for home. I was feelin' comfortable within myself, as Isabel and I bounced on down that ol' dirt road at a very mellow twenty-five. I was content and at such peace, as I looked at the scenery roll by, along with my thoughts. I had a great day, a great shoot.
Now is the time that I typically put in a CD, and ‘pen in' the lyrics of a favorite tune to set the mood for my readers. Well, the CD player is on the fritz! Isabel got rained on last month- a risk you take in going topless. Sorry to disappoint; but you'll just have to ‘plug in' your own favorite tune, setting and mood appropriate.
The sun was setting fast, and I almost put my camera away; for I have enough sunset shots already, enough to keep you 'ooohing and aaahing' for days, but each one is different and uniquely beautiful in its own way.
I was slowin' down to grab just a few shots of the brightly colored descending sun, when; to my left was a hawk perched upon a yucca plant, the sunset directly behind her.
Camera still switched on, flash switched off, 'Zoom! Snap! ' Then; zoom out, to get a wide angle shot of the entire sunset, fading bright yellow sun just kissing the mountains in the distance, orange-red hues, with remnants of pink, purple and blues. 'Gotcha! ' I smiled. 'Good evening Mrs. Hawk! ' (Hawks are monogamous) Satisfied, I turned the camera off, stashed it on the floorboard, and tooled on down that ol' dirt road towards home.
By the time I was out of the desert, and on the comfort of blacktop, it was dark. 'Hmm, almost eight, ' I said to nobody in particular. 'I'm gonna have hell to pay! ' I pulled Isabel into my drive; past the horses, and up to the side-porch door at 8: 15, grabbed my camera and another fresh, cold drink, when my wife met me at the door.
Imagine; if you will, the theme music from the movie 'Jaws, ' Well, that's what I heard, anyway.
'Hey! ' My wife greeted me. 'You know you're awfully late! ' I kissed her and apologized for not callin' and she gave me that look. You know, the one with a little smile that all wives have; the one that lets you know that they know what you've been doin'.
'Whatcha been up to for the last couple hours? ' She asked me rhetorically.
'You know, ' I smiled back at her with my famous ‘husbandly' grin. 'Not much babe, just kickin' it! '
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