The rocks stretched out before me for more than 100 yards, coming to an abrupt end at the edge of Hudson’s Bay where giant ice bergs floated and shorebirds and gulls landed on them to rest and eat the fish they had caught. We were there to photograph those birds. But to do that, I needed to get as close as possible to them. To get close meant I needed to walk on those rocks—that unsteady, wobbly carpet of rocks—while I carried my 22 pound camera rig on my shoulder. I took slow, deep breaths trying not to hyperventilate. My heart was in my throat with each step. I wondered if each rock I chose upon which to place my foot would be steady enough and solid enough to bear my weight without shifting. Despite the arctic cold, my face was flushed and I was dripping in sweat. I was scared to death. I tried. I really tried to walk across those rocks. But with each step and each wobble my terror intensified. I just couldn’t do it. I had to turn back.
For most people, walking across a field of rocks requires nothing more than paying attention to where you’re stepping. For most people, the thought of walking across a field of rocks is not a frightening prospect. For me, walking across a field of rocks holds sheer terror. My fear is unreasonable, irrational, and illogical, but it is very real. Until that experience, I had no idea that I was afraid to walk on rocks. I was uncomfortable with the thought of it but didn’t for a moment think I’d have the reaction I ultimately had. Apparently, I lack sure-footedness, the confidence it takes to walk on uneven surfaces without fear of falling down. This field of rocks was my nemesis.
My companions helped me maneuver the rocks back to solid ground and my equipment and I returned safely without my fears coming true. But, I felt as if I’d failed to accomplish what I’d set out to do. And, much to my chagrin and because of me, my three companions also abandoned the photo shoot. Now I felt even worse. Because of me, my friends lost an opportunity to capture some incredible photographs. We did find other birds to photograph that evening, including a relatively uncommon Hudsonian Godwit so all was not lost. And, my friend Moose pointed out to me that far from failing at something, I was wise to know my limitations. That made me feel a little better and at least I’d tried to do it before deciding where my limit was.
The only shot I got before turning back was of a Ring-billed Gull perched at the edge of Hudson’s Bay where the rocks met the water. When I got back to safety, I took a couple of photographs of the rocks that had foiled me. Because I had my long telephoto lens on the camera, I couldn’t capture a wide angle shot that showed the extensive field of rocks. The other photographs are in essence detail shots of the rocky terrain my fears and I faced.