When I was a toddler I fell out the second story window of my home. My parents recovered me from the pine island below with only a busted lip. A few years later I had pneumonia. After that I crashed my bike as often as I could, with just a few scratches to show for my wild stunts. I've swung from vines across creeks, been white water rafting, traveled to rural Central American villages, skied steep, wide open Colorado bowls, and finally, plowed into oncoming traffic at 45 mph (not my fault by the way). And after 25 years without a major scar, I finally take a spill at the haunted house on Halloween, followed by a trip to the emergency room for six stitches.
Bravely leading my pack of friends through this stroboscopic, fog-machine nightmare, I thought it might be fun to sprint ahead and hide around a dark corner, waiting to pounce from the shadows. Instead, I came around the corner, taking a nasty spill on the rough concrete floor of this converted old warehouse. My friends described it as happening in slow motion because of the strobe light effects. I must not have gotten too far ahead because they all had the pleasure of seeing me go down. I got up and brushed myself off thinking I probably had a few scratches and continued to lead the scared bunch through the smoke and mirrors.
I may have been the brave one at the haunted house but when my bloodthirsty friends prompted me to survey my "scraped" knee at home, I passed out momentarily from the site of what appeared to be a missing right kneecap. This was probably the most memorable gore effect we had seen that evening, definitely holding a candle to the recently viewed "28 Days Later". As I blacked out for a moment, quick flashes of imagery from the haunted house went through my brain. That was the scariest part of the evening for me and for my friends who had to run and catch me. Passing out was a first for me, as were the forthcoming stitches at the hospital.
I guess I've had a pretty good run for almost 26 years now. Looking back though, I'd have rather earned this nasty scar on my knee from the window free fall or the white water rafting trip. It would make for better "war story" material than tripping in a haunted house. Some people go over Niagara Falls without a barrel or a scratch but I can't make it through my first trip to a haunted house unscathed. And to think my career goal is to photograph news events in war torn foreign counties. If I can't make it through a fun house designed for my own entertainment then how would I fare against terrorists in Baghdad or remaining Taliban fighters in Afghanistan?
In all seriousness my biggest fear is not getting hurt abroad but right here at home five miles from the house. I'm desperate to travel or live (for a spell) in some other country. What if some terrible accident befalls me before I can photograph North Africa or South America? I'd rather it happen, if it must, while I'm getting my kicks from the front lines.
My "trip" to the haunted house uncovered my real fears as a photojournalist. I am generally a cautious and reserved individual but when I have my camera I become far more uninhibited and potentially more prone to danger. I don't think about myself in those situations so much as the photo I could get if I just pushed my luck a little further. This is what I want to do, and I need all four limbs and full functionality of the senses to do it right. After one wrong move I could be resigned to a desk job somewhere. Let's hope my appointment with destiny is in the field, and not on a routine trip to the grocery store.
Zach Porter is a photographer for the News Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.