The sensor did not work, the batteries ran out, the electrics failed, the electronics blew up, insects invaded the housing, rats ate the cables, elephants attacked the flash unit, sun/shadow spots caused the sensor to fire continuously, butterflies and moths triggered the sensor, bats and birds flew past, rain muddied the lens port, water damage, thieves stole the camera, equipment would not synch, poachers attacked the installation after being photographed, trekkers thought it funny to fill the memory card with photos of themselves, trees fell on the camera, focus was out, exposure settings were wrong. These are but a few of the common issues and problems for a camera trapper.
Whilst others are enjoying their weekend wildlife outings and experiences, camera trappers are usually sat on the forest floor wondering why the hell they did not stay in bed that day.
Spending fortunes on equipment, lugging back breaking heavy gear around the forest, trying to deal with electronics in a very inhospitable environment, sweating profusely on their camera systems, dealing with enough stress to kill a buffalo on every outing. Thats the life of a camera trap enthusiast.
And for what? Fifty percent of the time their camera trap systems fail, forty percent of the time the animals and the environment conspire against them and nine percent of the time their resulting photographs are simply no good.
So why do they do it? We have asked ourselves this question many times and considered giving up camera trapping as many times as we have had empty memory cards. But now I know why we carry on – the remaining one percent.
Its been a long and difficult rainy season for us, the season is a very difficult one for camera trapping with poor conditions, poor light and huge spectral highlight issues due the rain soaked forest leaves and plants reflecting our fill flash. We have been at camera trapping long enough to know, from our results, that the dry season offers much better opportunities and the light, both direct and reflected can make for better images.
With the lack of surface water the animals will start to change their habits and locales also.
So as the rain subsided we knew we had to be ready to take advantage of the new season with a few gambles on new camera trap locations and sets (the placement of the traps). Accordingly, we made changes to our installations, understanding that, even with 4 years of camera trapping under our belts, that experience would only give us 10% of what we needed and the remaining 90% would be down to lady luck.
And so, on a January Saturday morning in the forests of Kaeng Krachan National Park, we dismantled our latest installations, anticipating disappointment, expecting failure, resigned to a long day of struggle with erratic equipment.
But lady luck had smiled. A huge beaming grin of joy and mirth she had kindly bestowed upon us. Now we know why we carry on!