By Christina VanGinkel
"Mom, where is the video camera?" my youngest son asked me over the weekend. I told him, then backtracked as he was getting it off the closet shelf and asked him why he wanted it, and what he was planning to do. He had been busy most of the day with putting up a tree stand for the upcoming deer season with bow and arrow that our state has every fall. While not deer season yet, it would soon be, and he wanted to place his stand so the deer would get used to it if they happened to notice it. He responded that he was going to sit in his stand the next several evenings and video tape whatever happened to come along, whether it is a buck, a doe, black bear, fox, coyote, or even a squirrel, to get a feel for what he might encounter when hunting.
After giving him a speed course reminder of how to operate the camera, I told him he would have to charge the battery, as I had not used it for several weeks, relying lately on my new still camera's video mode for quick video here and there. He plugged it in and went out to help his dad work on some new dog pens we are in the process of building before he headed out to his stand. Before long, he was back in the house asking me if I knew where a harness was. We have a strict rule that anyone in a tree stand must be wearing a safety harness as it is too easy to take a tumble out of a stand, and a fall from that height would be hazardous, even deadly. I knew he would be back for the harness, but I waited to see if he remembered it on his own, as I want it to become second nature to him to use.
This got me thinking about how often professional photographers, or the average photographer or videographer, may overlook simple safety precautions when taking video or photos outside of their normal routine. We knew to insist on a harness, because we use them when hunting, but otherwise, we may not have even given a second thought to being up on a raised platform as dangerous.
Photographing several black bear a few weeks past, I was traversing some uneven ground, which included a small rock face and outcropping. By myself, I would not have attempted to scale the face of it, even though it was relatively small, because I have learned that accidents not only happen they happen quickly, and unexpectedly. I waited for my partner, and then passed my gear to him before heading down. He then passed all the gear down to me before he headed down. We also took the time to assess the path, even though it was not much more than a small embankment. Too often, to get the perfect shot or once in a lifetime view, we throw caution to the wind and become reckless, and this will never lead to a good shot, only a visit to the emergency room or worse. Or we do not even realize that what we are doing could be dangerous, as it all seems a bit mundane or normal. Complacency with your surroundings is not good, especially when you are in unfamiliar territory.
If you are heading out with video or still camera in hand, take the time to be aware of your surroundings, and consider if there are any tasks you can do to raise your safety level. A bit of caution can go a long way.