A loud crack is followed by the rustle of leaves, then a thud. A sizable branch lands nearby. I can’t tell exactly where, but it’s not far. She is displeased and I’m ignoring her tantrum at my peril.
I can’t see her from where I am, but I can sense her presence. I seek a better position; stumble to the right, slide downhill blindly until my back makes contact with the trunk I hoped was there. My eyes stay in the canopy, scanning for fuzzy orange.
Suddenly, my eyes find her. I start shooting and focusing, framing and refocusing. The viewfinder fogs up, or maybe I’m blinded by my sweat. The camera fires away, steady but slower than I’d like; the light is dim so I must hold the camera still. My legs are burning; the loud thumping in my chest and the shallow breathing can’t catch up to each other.
I may not be doing this right. I have visions of nature photographers carefully setting up their equipment, lying in wait for days or weeks for the rare animal to walk into the optimal light, silhouetted against the dramatic background of its habitat. That’s not me right now. I feel like a paparazzo harassing a celebrity. I yoyo between the exhilaration of catching a glimpse of the animal I came so far to see and the fear of bodily harm.
But there is not much time to think. One of her young appears high in the canopy. It has something in its mouth, I can’t tell exactly what, but I fire away, praying to the gods of refraction that the autofocus won’t be tricked by the millions of interfering leaves.
A vaguely familiar sound reaches my conscious mind. The matriarch of the family is peeing on us from above. The strong stream breaks up in the canopy and becomes a gentle, musical rain. I chuckle at the freedom of animals; you piss them off, they piss on you. I grin and bear it; my equipment can handle it, and after all, this is the lot of the paparazzi.