Several years ago my wife and I entered the Leavenworth Half-Marathon; we had recently both lost weight, and we wanted to do something big to test our new-found health. Because the half-marathon takes place in the Fall, I knew that the leaves on the trees would be changing colors, so I brought my DSLR camera and tripod with me.
On our way back to Seattle after the marathon, we passed by several groves of trees on either side of the road that were displaying a dizzying array of radiant colors. As we approached a road that was announcing a new housing development that was coming soon, I thought this would make a great place to take photos - especially before the developers cut down all of the amazingly colorful foliage to build houses.
As we turned off the main highway between Leavenworth and Seattle, we stopped on a newly-graveled road that led to the future construction sites. To the east of the road was a veritable wall of brilliantly-colored trees, while to the west was an unfenced field with the run-down remnants of a farmhouse and barn.
I got my camera gear out of the car, while Kathleen settled down in the front seat of our car to take a quick nap. I walked along the gravel road, and I stopped periodically to set up my tripod and take a few photos.
Nature did little to disappoint me; it seemed that everywhere I turned I was surrounded by an eruption of vibrant color. My only regret was that I wasn't a better photographer with skills that could capture what my eyes were actually seeing.
I had been careful to stay on the road as I took my photographs for no particular reason; there were no fences that prevented me from crossing into the woods or the nearby field - I simply felt no need to leave the road to line up any of my camera shots. In hindsight, I suppose that I didn't want to track a bunch of mud back to the car.
After a half-hour or so, I had satisfied my inner shutterbug, and I packed my equipment to leave. As I walked back to the car, I realized that if I walked into the field on the west side of the road, I could line up a photo with the barn in the foreground and the grove of trees in the distance.
I have to be honest - there are hundreds if not thousands of photographers who take endless numbers of barn photographs, and that's simply not my style. But on this one occasion, I thought this particular arrangement might result in a decent photo or two. With this in mind, I set down my camera bag in the middle of the road near our car, and I walked a hundred yards or so into the field near the barn.
I set up my camera and tripod, then I lined up a shot, and I set my timer to take a single image. As I heard the shutter click, I happened to notice someone walking towards me from the general vicinity of the dilapidated farmhouse. As the person drew nearer I realized that it wasn't Kathleen, but the stranger waved to me and I waved back cordially. I turned to look at my camera when the stranger's voice was suddenly audible, and I heard him yell, "What the @#$% do you think you're doing!!!"
At that point, I realized that the situation was going to be bad.
As he walked up to me, he swung his arms widely in the air as he screamed a tirade of expletives that made little sense, punctuated by occasional moments of clarity when his threats of beating me to a pulp were all-too intelligible and disturbingly believable.
My would-be assailant drew to a stop within inches of my face, and he continued to hurl fiery verbal spitballs of ill will as I stepped back instinctively. I apologized profusely for whatever it was that I must have done, to which my aggressor shouted that I was trespassing. I apologized again, and I replied that this was my fault entirely; I had seen no signs nor fences to indicate that the property was privately owned. I hastily explained that I thought the land was unoccupied prior to the commencement of the impending development project, while my infuriated companion continuously mocked my every word.
In my former career as a technical support engineer, I had dealt with more than my fair share of angry and unreasonable customers, and I was drawing on every ounce of experience to try everything within my power to diffuse the situation, but nothing seemed to work. My assailant continued to scream at me as I said that I would take my things and leave. As I reached for my camera, my belligerent host screamed, "Don't you touch me!!!", and he jumped back several feet. I explained that I was simply going to pack up my camera, to which he angrily responded, "It's on my land!!! It belongs to me now!!!"
Up to this point in the conversation I had been on the defensive. (Or more accurately, I had been in retreat.) But once he mentioned keeping my camera equipment, I switched gears and strongly remarked, "No - this doesn't belong to you, and I'm taking it with me."
My sudden change in tone prompted a different reaction from my antagonist - he demanded that we call the development company so that I could explain why I was trespassing. I agreed to his terms; after all, I probably was trespassing, even if I had done so unwittingly. But I also thought that whomever I spoke to at the development company would have to be able to participate in a more reasonable dialogue than my enraged escort.
As the two of us walked towards the farmhouse, I had no intention of actually going inside his derelict dwelling. (I've seen too many horror movies for that.) But I suddenly remembered that I had left my camera bag sitting in the middle of the road, and I changed course to recover it. As I did so, my hostile host shouted, "Where are you going???"
I explained that I was going to retrieve my camera bag, but I was now near enough to the car for the shouting to wake Kathleen. As she sat up in our car's front seat, my unwelcome companion suddenly noticed her, and it visibly dawned on him that he was outnumbered. (Even if neither Kathleen nor I were ready to provoke an all-out fight.)
Despite his earlier aggressive stance, my would-be attacker now backed away rapidly, and he yelled at me to leave as fast as possible, and he demanded that I call the property company on my own so that I could explain why I was trespassing. (I agreed to make the call, but of course I never actually did.)
As Kathleen and I drove away, it took a while for the adrenalin to burn off and my nerves to mend. Once we had arrived home safely, I looked through my collection of photos from earlier in the day. I had a few nice photos of colorful leaves, but what I really wanted to see was whether the solitary photo for which I had risked life and limb was worth the potential hazards that I had endured.
I will let you be the judge... here is the actual image:
I think this is the last time that I will try to photograph a barn.