Normally I don’t write posts of the spiritual variety on this blog. While I am myself a spiritual person, when it comes to photography (and most other areas of my life), I tend to separate the two. I am making an exception in this case because it’s a story worth telling.
Many people can relay tales of electronic equipment malfunctioning in odd situations and locations. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the stories involving paranormal investigation, sacred sites, and otherwise “haunted” locations. As a paranormal investigator I have had my share of interesting experiences, though I often brush off minor equipment malfunctions to exactly that: a malfunction. There is no way to prove that a metaphysical entity messed with your camera, EV meter, or digital recorder. Most of it is in your head. Although I have had plenty of unexplained phenomena happen to me, in the case of paranormal investigation or graveyard photography, I’ve never once had equipment failure. Call me a skeptic but that’s what makes me a good investigator. I want to believe, but I can’t do so blindly. Anyway, I digress…
My story begins in England on May 11, 2012. The setting has no parallel: inside Stonehenge, at sunset, on a gorgeous day. I was there to photograph my friend’s conference, Megalithomania, which included several tours. I had two cameras on me at the time: the purple Pentax DSLR and a Canon bridge camera. Both had freshly charged Eneloop batteries (known for their long lasting battery life). Prior to Stonehenge our small tour group had visited Woodhenge, where both cameras were used equally and both showed that they retained full battery.
Upon arriving at Stonehenge both cameras were functioning perfectly. Within minutes of entering the center ring, however, the Canon began to malfunction and eventually went completely dead. I thought this strange, but brushed it off. I didn’t want to buy into the “it’s Stonehenge” explanation. For the record here, let it be stated that I am a druid. Stonehenge is my Mecca. I was having the greatest spiritual experience of my life. I felt as though I was being “welcomed back” to a place I had never been. I was in complete awe, yet, I was remaining logical.
I eventually gave up on the Canon, put it away, and focused on using the Pentax (the superior of the two cameras, anyway). It functioned fine but I noticed that the battery life had quickly drained to half. I raised an eyebrow but kept on shooting. Within a short period of time the lens began to malfunction. There was plenty of light, it still had plenty of battery, it wasn’t old at the time, and it should have been able to focus without flaw. Well, no, it didn’t, and soon enough it too went dead. This time I was perplexed and I admit, I did say to myself, ‘well, I am at Stonehenge’.
When we got back in the tour van I checked on my cameras. Both had returned to full battery life and were functioning properly. Bizarre.
Flash forward to August 2015. I was shooting the Nimham Pow Wow, as I do every year. I of course still had (and have) the purple Pentax K-x, but the Canon had been replaced by the white Pentax K-x. Both cameras were again being used equally and both had fresh batteries. To be fair, I don’t recall if both were the same brand this time.
I had been shooting in hard sunlight, midday this time, during a sacred dance. This was one of the few dances where photography is not allowed. I am the exception, being that I am part of the tribe, the official photographer, and my photos are used for education and obtaining a yearly grant. The grant is used to fund the pow wow, an important cultural event.
It was during this dance that the purple camera (with the 75-300) began to malfunction. The lens wouldn’t focus, no matter the focal length,and the camera kept turning off. I got frustrated and grabbed the white one from around my neck and attempted to shoot with the 18-55. The same exact thing happened. Neither camera would function and I had to keep trying in order to get any shots at all. I’m lucky I walked away with a handful.
Perplexed and frustrated, I walked back to my booth after the dance had ended, simply thankful I had gotten a shot at all. A young man (roughly 15), one of the dancers, was waiting for me at my vendor booth. I greeting him warmly, expecting to chat about the items I had for sale or about the pow wow. Instead he asked me, “Why were you photographing during that dance? You’re not allowed to.”
I’d never met him before so I introduced myself and explained to him that the announcement had been made that as the official photographer, I am the one and only person allowed that privilege. I explained to him that I too am of Native heritage, and I do respect his beliefs.
He couldn’t argue with Chief Cryinghawk’s rules, though he still expressed his dissent. The boy went on to tell me that while I had been photographing he had been “flashing his energy”, claiming he was “shielding himself” by throwing his energy at my cameras. Of course, this raised a flag in my mind, since my cameras had been malfunctioning like crazy that entire time. They functioned as normal the rest of the weekend and ever since.
So here’s my question: do certain places and certain people have the ability to affect equipment? Yes, I believe so. We’re all energy in the end and some of us know how to manipulate it better than others. Some places hold an enormous amount of energy due to their significance in human history. Perhaps the crossing of human energy, natural latent energy, and the Earth’s own magnetic field has an effect on electronics. Stonehenge and the dancers’ circle at the pow wow would be excellent examples of this. Both places are considered “sacred sites” (the pow wow being on a mountain considered sacred by many). Both places are tight rings in which so much human life -rich in deeply rooted, earth-based spirituality- has gone on over many, many years. (Ok, so Stonehenge has about 5,000 years on the pow wow, but you get my point.)
I would like to believe, looking back, that the reason behind my equipment failure may have been due to such circumstances. Perhaps that young man really did have the ability to throw his personal energy at my cameras. Maybe Stonehenge drained my batteries. I will never know, but for what it’s worth, these were the two and only instances that were so bizarre, they made me step back and wonder. They had a profound enough impact that I am writing about them years later. Certainly, they have given me a deeper respect and appreciation for the beauty and strength of the human spirit, and its ability to influence the world.