Simon Barker’s Most Memorable Photo Day

Simon Barker has an incredible “My Most Memorable Photo Day” story! Read on, if you dare.

©Simon Barker

I’m a “dog person”. My wife, Sandra, and I have adopted many dogs over the years. One of those was a little shih tzu cross named Gypsy. When she got older she developed congested heart disease. I first found that out when taking her for a walk one day. Half way through the walk she keeled over and stopped breathing. Without thinking about it, I gave her chest compressions and mouth to mouth. Luckily she came to. Anyway, long story short, she lived an extra 2 years and had many more collapsing episodes… when she woke up it would be like nothing had happened. Several times I had to put on my vet hat and revive her.

Gypsy just didn’t wake up from one episode. It was shitty, but she had had a great life. But she died just before a photography trip that I had planned to the Palouse region of Washington State. I almost cancelled as I was pretty upset, but decided to go anyway determined to get a nice photo for Gypsy’s memory. I drove down, which is about 12 hours away; knowing I had to be back for a hospital appointment on my return. On the last day, I went out to Palouse Falls wanting to spend a few hours there then I would drive straight home to the hospital the next day…no problem. Yeah right!!

I was set up on the edge of the falls for some long exposures with my new 10 stop filter. I weighted down the tripod with my pack which also had other lenses, a camera, filters and accessories in it. During one exposure a person walked by with 3 dogs. I swear one looked just like Gypsy. Just then a big gust of wind blew through. I turned around, looked for my camera… nothing! Holy Sh*t. “I swear my camera was just there”. Looked around again, still no camera. I looked over the edge and I can just make out two tripod legs sticking out of the shrubs 400 feet below. HOLY SH*T!!

Now what do I do? I was in total disbelief. But… if I can just get down there, I’m sure it’ll be okay. I decided to drop off my other pack back at the car and figure out a way down. So I ran back along the trail, jumped over a big rock which was in the way. Did I mention this was rattlesnake country? So in mid jump, I looked at the path to see where to land and a bloody big snake was right there… and sure enough I landed on him! I fell over badly smashing my knees (injury #1). Luckily the snake was more scared than me and he disappeared. So, I hobbled back to the car. I thought I could still figure a way to get down to my gear so I headed along the ridge top, over a railway bridge and then down a steep hill. Wrong move!…..too steep and too many loose rocks. I ended up sliding down on my rear end, but trashing my hands… (injury #2).

By now I’m half way there. I just have to follow the river downstream to the top of the falls. It was hard to balance on the slippery rocks. I kept falling over, damaging my hands, feet and ankles in the process… (injury #3).

But I kept going, finally getting to my wayward camera gear. It was 30 degrees Celsius, I was hurting badly, had no water and was already 4 hours into trying to recover my gear. I got the tripod… smashed! I got my camera… really smashed! I couldn’t find anything else – the pack was missing! But I had the camera and so I had the memory card!!

It took me another two hours to climb back out of the canyon. No more snakes though! Now I had to get home to that hospital appointment.

Driving on the interstate outside of Spokane I got severe cramps in both hamstrings. So I pulled over on the shoulder of the highway and I got out of the car and lay down and stretch. I must have looked pretty weird sprawled out there on the edge of the busy interstate!

By now, with cramps and in pain there was no way I could drive home and make it to the hospital appointment so I stayed overnight somewhere along the way.

Once back home I went to emergency where they took 18 X-rays. I had a few broken bones and just about every tendon and ligament was torn. I’m still paying the price for my injuries today and this was 5 years ago! But… that was the day I knew I loved photography! And it was definitely the most memorable day ever! In the end I lost about $12,000 of photo gear, so thank god for insurance.

The image above is the last photo off of the card before it went over. I think Gypsy would be proud and I remember her every time I look at it.