Befriending the Aggressor

The Aggressor on the fence. Photo by Brian Brooks.
The Aggressor on the fence. Photo by Brian Brooks.

While gathering photos from my 2011 Bushnell hunting camera for my most recent post, I was overcome with desire to start placing a camera outside again. Had the animals in the yard changed? How could I use the camera differently?

But I’d sent my old Bushnell across the country a year ago. My father needed the camera, with its motion sensor and time stamp, to count passing quarry trucks for a neighborhood controversy.

Remembering how much fun the camera was, I impulsively ordered this year’s model: The Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor.

The Aggressor Unboxed
The Trophy Cam HD Aggressor.

 

At first glance, the Aggressor’s scary face stares ahead menacingly. Unlike previous models, which flashed red LEDs at night when the sensor was tripped, the Aggressor is “No Glow” and thus a stealth photographer.

Cameras-pics-of-me
The Aggressor’s pictures of me taking its picture. This model adds the brightly colored Bushnell logo to the bottom left corner of each photo.

 

The worst of the Aggressor’s aggressive acts is stamping Bushnell’s orange logo over each picture, in place of the small, tasteful Bushnell black text of previous models.

I considered returning it.

Looking down: Rats and Disappointment

Rat with a broken tail. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.
Animated GIF of two photos of a Rat with a broken tail by my backyard storm drain. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.

Several years ago, when I’d put the camera in my yard at night, all kinds of animals showed up. But during this first week of placing the Aggressor outside, I had very little luck. Night after night of nothing. And then a single rat.

I didn’t want to simply continue to amass the same types of photos I took years ago, and I wasn’t even excited about the poses the rat was striking.

Looking Up: A Patch of Sky

I sought out to find a new way of using the camera that still connected me to the nature and animals closest at hand. Turning my attention to the pigeon’s nest that sits over the fence from my yard, I placed the Aggressor pointing upwards on the ledge of the fence.

The passing clouds and wires bouncing in the wind triggered the camera’s sensor almost continuously. Among hundreds of photos of the sky was one with pigeon in flight.

Low-flying pigeon from below. The first of the Aggressor's image to make me feel something. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.
Low-flying pigeon from below. The first of the Aggressor’s image to make me feel something. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.

The angle, and the tips of its feathers filled with light, pulled me out of my disappointment. I returned the camera to its spot on the ledge.

Mostly, I caught blank sky. The wind and clouds tripped the sensor so often that I deleted thousands of pictures every day. I began to enjoy, and save, the moments closest to dawn and dusk when the camera would switch from black and white infrared night vision to color vision and back.

Moments of Dawn and Dusk
Moments of Dawn and Dusk. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.

Within the flood of blank photos, something would occasionally appear in the patch of sky.

Birds overhead. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.
Birds overhead. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.

A Star in Hercules

One night, the Aggressor captured an entire hour in which a single twinkling star traversed a patch of fog.

A star moves from the top right quadrant of the image to the bottom center over the course of about an hour. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.
A star moves from the top right to the bottom center over the course of about an hour. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.

The next day, I looked up at the sky with the SkyView app to see what star I had captured.

Though I couldn’t identify the individual star –light pollution removed all frames of reference–it was clear that our star was in the constellation Hercules.

What’s more, the camera was placed a few feet away from yet another aggressor: a totem protector who has guarded our yard for over a decade.

The Aggressor on the fence. Photo by Brian Brooks.
The Aggressor on the fence. Photo by Brian Brooks.

I took these strong-man coincidences as a sign that Aggressor has a sense of humor, and bringing much-needed strength to my life. This bodes well for the Aggressor and me

What’s Next?

After all that, I’ve found pretty much nothing.  But it takes time. Back on the ground, I’ve finally taken a few animal shots with character.

Rat coming out of its hole. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.
Rat coming out of its hole. Taken with the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor, Oakland, CA 2016.

I’ve let go of the idea that the photos have to be so distinct from my early experiments: if I’m paying close attention, and choosing spots and photos that make me feel something, growth will happen naturally.

And I’ve grown attached to the Aggressor. Underneath its name, its scary face, and its non-removable, photo-defacing logo, it’s no different from the modest old model, and it still reminds me that even so close to home, the wild is everywhere.

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All photos by Emily Wick unless otherwise noted.