So your in an isolated destination, you can’t get a flight out because you’ve been branded an associate to a narcotics trafficker, you’re slowly running out of money, what do you do? “No, seriously what do you do? Can’t you see I’m screwed here!” Well, as my MacGyver namesake would say, where there is ducktape and a swiss army knife, there is a way. And so you will be happy to know I persevered against the odds (sort of).
Next flight wasn’t leaving for a few days, so I made sure to disassociate myself from Sammy as best I could. “So will your companion be joining you on this flight?” asked the flight ticketing agent. “What companion?” I asked innocently, milking my naive canadian air for all it was worth. “The one…”"No, nope, don’t know what you’re talking about”. She glances around like he might be hiding in the bushes or something and then nods and confirms my name. So I’ve now got several days before I have to ‘leave’ or try to leave, so I decided that the following day I would go back down to Tukeit, since the landscape was a little more interesting, not the highland type up at Kaieteur but some ‘real’ jungle. In the mean time I walk around and fall asleep to the roar of the falls.
I’m awoken by the slight patter of rain. This is the life I think to myself as I slowly get up and curl the Tolstoy book with struggling biceps. The rain starts to fall more heavily. Go figure I have both cameras on me and I didn’t bring my umbrella because the sky had been all clear a couple hours previously. It turns into a torrential downpour and I run to the guesthouse, where uninvited I duck in to avoid the worst of it. I dry my cameras with the kitchen towels and pretend not to notice the people who actually paid for the accommodation. Gradually the rain eases off and I start my walk back to Mendie’s. I hope my tent is alright I think to myself.
I get back to Mendie’s 15 minutes later to find all my electronics in a puddle of water 1/2 a foot deep. I wring my hands, pull my hair and shake my hands wrathfully at God above. The tarp me and Sammy had been using had been pulled too tightly over his hammock and my tent. I still hadn’t changed the orientation of it since he had left. So, it was cutting it too tight with not enough room on either side, so the water funnelled in from the tarp into the tent and collected at the lowest point, which for some God awful reason had my laptop (now the screen is water damaged), my battery charger (okay for now), and AC/DC inverter (fuse blown + needs parts replaced). After more cursing and lamenting of God (Note I’m areligious; Sidenote: I say areligious and not atheist because the latter is too loaded with derogative connotations amongst the religious crowds. When people ask me what religion I just say areligion (pronouncing it ah-religious not eh-religious), so that people look at me and repeat “so what religion”, to which I respond “ah-religious”, so we go around in circles and they gradually give up. They think I’m a little dull, but at least they don’t have that loathing and contemptible look that they normally have for non-believers and pagans), I shake the loose water from the circuits and set them out to dry. “No power tonight”, I mutter to no one in particular.
Next day rather than leaving for Tukeit immediately I hold off and let my electronics dry some more. After a while I test them out. The AC/DC inverter fizzles after turning on briefly…Fuck! and the laptop has a literally watermarked every picture I have taken, “that’s just GREAT!!!” I set off for Tukeit dejectedly. At least my cameras are both alright I consoled myself. The walk down was very pleasant actually. I didn’t feel rushed like I had coming up. I paid extra attention for labarias, of which I’d seen another in the past day, but I arrived down below without incident and set up my tent. This time I made sure to really secure it against the rain, especially because I heard some storm clouds coming in and knew that it was likely to rain. I put on the rainfly this time, despite the stifling heat. I put up the tarp and peg down every single looped guy wire I can get my hands on. Then I put all my sensitive electronics in the middle of the tent at the highest point. I briefly contemplate putting them in an abandoned shed I see nearby, but the ramshackle iron roof doesn’t fill me with that warm fuzzy feeling and so I decide to pass. I go off in search of insects. Here, I come across some leafcutter ants! I shoot them for quite some time, they are difficult subjects due to their speed and constant movement, so I have to use a couple of tricks to photograph them (See tips, tricks page). I get several photographs that I am actually quite satisfied with.
- The larger ant carrying the leaf is Atta major of a different worker caste than the smaller ants atop the leaf which help protect against the parasitization by phorid flies. For those photographing leafcutters that know how difficult it can be since they are constantly in motion.
I try a new technique of panning photography, but this proves to be very difficult due to the inclination of the trajectory of the ants, the need for consistent depth of focus, and speed of panning. But I resolve myself to continue trying in the future because the results look like they could indeed be promising. Several people mentioned that I could use 2nd shutter sync flash mode. Yes, but this would leave a trail behind the ants while I want the ants to remain stationary and have the background blurred.
- Panning leafcutters, this technique is used to confer a sense of motion to these insects
I saw an amazing iridescent blue beetle. I used a light tent, several sheet of vellum paper folded one atop the other with a space in between to provide adequate diffusion and I was actually very pleased with the results! No real hotspots to speak of and the brighter areas I was able to smooth quite manageably in post processing (Aperture).
- Blue iridescent beetle at Tukeit
I rest for a bit, throw one of the cameras in the tent and make dinner. After this I continue bug hunting into the night.
- Spider with robber fly prey (Leptogastrinae)
Part way through the hunt, a soft patter of rain falls. It is no longer that soothing, gentle sound I had heard up at Kaieteur falls, it has a more sinister death knell kind of a sound to it now. The bugs go into hiding as the storm picks up. Rain lashes from one side, I hold out the umbrella to the left, rain lashes from the other side, I hold it to the right…I’m getting soaked as the wind gales and throws the water droplets like millions of little dodgeballs. I’m soaked, I’m OUT. I rush back to camp to secure everything and make sure all my things are in order. I enter the tent with a real feeling of trepidation…
But my things are dry, oh blessedly dry!!! I towel myself off review my photos for the night and go to sleep. The wind is a persistent shriek the entire night and the rain lasts into the early morning. Several times during the night I wake and look about me in confused agitation. But looking around and feeling myself dry I fall back into uneasy sleep. When I wake up, my expensive camera (5D mark ii) is sitting in a puddle of water. I worm myself over to it, dry it off and look in the battery case. A little bit of moisture but nothing serious, I towel it off and with baited breath I turn it on. It turns on!
And then it fizzles out and dies. “SON OF A BITCH!!!” I scream to the high heavens. Picture that freakish, earth shaking scream that sends the ravens flying from their perches and turns the head of every passerby…yeah, that’s me!