Stuff Happens
But it's still worth trying.
November 10, 2011


Recently my wife, Lee, and I sent some time in Malaysia for a joyous family event followed by a short photography outing. The big event was the start of our trip in Kuala Lumpur, and the photography was in the state of Sabah, on the island of Borneo. That required a roughly 3 hour flight, some travel by car and 4-wheel drive Land Cruiser, and lots of walking after reaching our main destination. It sounds like a grand photographic adventure, but sometimes things sound grander than they actually are. There are no guarantees when doing nature photography, especially when it involves wildlife. It’s also true that when your time is limited small events can have a big impact on your photographic productivity in terms of both quantity and quality. Sometimes the weather or wildlife doesn’t cooperate, but that’s not all that can happen.
Not including travel time we had only five days in Borneo. I ended up with a stomach ailment within an hour of arriving at our “cottage”, and simultaneously Lee was coming down with something that appeared to be a very bad cough and cold. We spent all of our first day in Sabah sleeping. Well, Lee did. I spent a good part of it in the bathroom. The next day I felt alright but weary and Lee was sick but able to function. We resumed our planned activities but at a more moderate pace than we might have otherwise. I was feeling fine two days into our stay but Lee was not. Sometimes she would stay “home” in the cottage and I’d go out alone. The wildlife we sought was present, but perhaps I’d forgotten how difficult it is to take pictures in this extremely hot, humid, and dense jungle. You can be a few feet away from something and not be able to see it, much less photograph it. There are few openings through the foliage, it’s hard to compose with sweat running into your eyes, and I’m not as young or as fit as I was the last time I did something like this. Pulling successful images from this place felt as difficult as pulling teeth from an orangutan. I got perhaps four or five good photos from our entire stay in Sabah, some of which are of things I did not plan to photograph. Objectively that isn’t terribly bad for such a short outing, though it all depends on your definition of “good”.
Seeing family and friends was the real purpose of this trip, and that was a lot more fun and infinitely easier than the photography. But being a nature photographer at heart makes it impossible to travel to such a place for any purpose without also attempting to capture some images of the region’s flora and fauna. It’s disappointing when things don’t work out as expected, but it’s more disappointing to not have made the attempt. As Chester Barnard said, “To try and fail is at least to learn; to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been”.
Happy travels,

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Copyright 2011 Dean M. Chriss
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