Amateur | Macro Practice Failed

I shouted to Brad across the cactus-lined chain-link fence. I hoped I had left a window open and he would hear me from the yard next door where no one had lived there since we’d arrived.

I had braved the intense mosquito population next door to practice my micro photography skills on the tortoises living there and poorly assumed that the tortoises would remain still, and I wanted Brad to observe their actual reaction.


I'd clicked the remote shutter four or five times before the tortoise turned, walked straight toward me, climbed over my purple Manfrotto tripod leg and pushed its snout into my boot.

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Brad arrived in sandals. I wondered aloud if tortoises bite, at which point I was reminded how slowly tortoises move, but it chased us. Repeatedly.

Each time I moved my my tripod it came after me again.

It drove its snout into my boot. I stood my ground. It tucked in head into its house and rammed me with its shell. As it continued pushing its little legs were shoving earth backward as it attempted to propel itself forward against my boot.

We were having a territory dispute, and I was losing.


I tried a few more times to photograph it, but the effort was useless - it chased me until I retreated to the lower yard, where I found the other four tortoises. I think they are Leopard Tortoises and they must have been carried into the fenced yard by someone. Two of them had axe cuts in the top of their shells and someone had tried to catch them for dinner, which is one of the reasons we never released them from the yard. We also weren’t sure where to return them and they were thriving in the expansive garden.

I crept up to Number Two, the largest of the four.


Number Three ignored me. Number Four hid in its shell and stared and me a few moments before deciding to walk away, but not before I noticed a textured pattern in place of the typical markings.


I climbed the rock slope through the tired garden to photograph a jackfruit.


Behind me, I heard crunching leaves and looked up to see that Number One was still feeling tough and chasing me again. Clearly I wasn’t wanted.

I stepped through our rusty gate wishing that going forward I could defend myself as confidently as the tortoise against adversaries of any size.

On November 1 I asked myself What do I want from my life in Tanzania?

November 2 I answered, “Wonder. Bewilderment. Fascination. Peace. Beauty.”

November 3 I wanted encounters with the wildlife, culture, and society that expand my soul and add chapters to my book of experience.

November 4, I wished for time to do all of these things.

Today, I wished for the courage and confidence to believe in myself as bravely as Number One.