In Search of the Million Dollar Photograph
We've all seen those once-in-a-lifetime photographs that make the news wire and newspapers. The most recent was of two whales breaching, a tough photograph to get in itself, but this one had a kayaker right next to them adding to the composition of these majestic creatures. It was an absolutely stunning image and the kind of photography we all dream of capturing.
Such images have inspired me and as such I have been devoting my spare time to capturing the elusive Hodag, a creature not yet photographed in the wilds of Wisconsin (For you international folks, Wisconsin is part of the United States north of Chicago). Most people would liken the Hodag to the Bigfoot or Yeti because there is no proof that one exists. Just because the animal is more legend than fact does not mean it doesn't exist; I have met people in the northwoods who swear that they have seen it. The more beer they drink the more adamant they become and that is proof enough for me.
Earlier this summer I went camping in search of the Hodag, lurking through forests and wetlands, tracking the beast in order to capture one single photograph, dreaming of the fortune and glory that comes with such a feat.
Wisconsin is where I have lived most of my life but with my experiences in other parts of the world, it is a unique place. If I were to read through a National Geographic magazine and learn about other peoples and cultures both different and fascinating, the same thing must work in reverse; other peoples and cultures would find my part of the world different and fascinating though to me this place is routine. The point is, things happen here that you would never see any where else in the world.
My obsession with finding the Hodag took me all over Wisconsin where I experienced the normal for this part of the world. The camping trip was at a state park and as I was going to get water I watched a mosquito carry off a small child. It was a horrible thing to witness but you have to be careful of the mosquitoes around here. Someone asked me if I got a picture of this tragedy but I answered in the negative; it seemed like a mundane thing for this part of the world and I told the person I was saving my photography for the Hodag. The person I was talking to let out a low whistle; I puffed out my chest with pride as he was impressed with my skills as a photographer.
Days and night I hiked through the wilderness in search of my quest. I saw a bear attack a family but disaster was averted when the father wrestled the bear with his bare hands and killed it by thrusting his hand into the chest and pulled out its heart. He then started to eat the heart while it was still beating.
Hidden in the woods was a marijuana patch and my timing was perfect in that I witnessed two drug cartels shoot it out with each other over control of the patch. It was a sizable crop of a number of acres so it had to be worth a large sum of money. I was up on a hill looking at the firefight through my telephoto lens, automatic weapons blazing away. I didn't take a single photo as I was saving myself for the Hodag.
There was also the day when I came upon the end of a rainbow, a leprechaun, and a pot of gold. The leprechaun said I found him fair and square which meant the gold belonged to me but there was no way I could carry both the gold and my camera equipment. I stayed true to my cause because there was no way I was going to come upon a Hodag without my camera.
Then came "The Night." I was about as deep into the wilderness you could get, creeping along, and there was something upon the wind that told me this was no ordinary night. Finally, after hours of mucking through wetlands, bogs, and marshes, I could see a glow in the distance between the trees. I inched my way slowly, silently, and working my way to the strange light. Then I could hear the noise. Faintly at first, unrecognizable, but as I drew closer I could make out what it was.
Music? Out here?
Finally I came upon the light source, which turned out to be a campfire. Seated around it were Elvis Presley, Sasquatch, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny! They were playing guitars, singing campfire songs, and having a grand old time. The huge chest of beer and the empties tossed into the fire told me that this was a party reaching its climax.
I just stood there in awe and eventually they noticed I was there at which they invited me to join them. I drank some beers, sang some songs, and plinked out a few chords on the guitar though it had been years since I last played. We all quickly became friends, laughing it up and feeling the beer. Elvis asked me what I was doing way out here and when I told him about my quest, they all groaned and laughed at the same time. It turned out the Hodag had been there but left about five minutes before I arrived!
They could see my disappointment so they offered to let me take pictures of them but I declined; I was just too sick to my stomach for my bad luck.
The party was over when the beer ran out. Sasquatch and the Easter Bunny slipped away into the forest, Santa had a reindeer saddled up and took off on him, and Elvis... well... he had a 1957 Cadillac and he drove off in that.
Yes, I know you will have a hard time believing a Cadillac could make its way through a forest with no roads, but you can take my word for it as a photographer.
I still search through the dark places and quiet back country of Wisconsin for the Hodag because I now have the proof that they truly exist. When Santa Claus tells you he's friends with a Hodag, you know it's true.
As for now, many of you know I busy myself photographing blue-sky-with-clouds and isolated tomatoes. I could photograph the mundane things that exist in my part of the world, but I consider them too mundane to be considered stock. What are the things in your part of the world that you consider trivial and mundane but people elsewhere would consider interesting? In other words, you mean there is nothing to photograph where you live other than generic architecture and tomatoes?
Thanks for reading, and for those of you with no models or studio, perhaps you might look around again where you live and find the exotic that Buyers would be interested in purchasing. I mean, other than mosquitoes carrying off small children; around here that's considered boring stuff.
Photo credits: Benkrut.
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