Blinking against the driving sleet which was making contact with her eyes, she took another deep breath to steady her nerves, trying not to flinch as her fingers made contact with the freezing cold metal. She was unsuccessful in avoiding the wind as it stung her face with its brutal strength, but grateful that the camouflaged jacket from her army days acted as a wind shield and protected her body from fast falling freezing sleet. She had been in the same position for half an hour and her body had started to cry out in protest as each limb ached and her feet felt like slabs of ice, even though she had her Dr Martens on; but still, she was determined to continue with her mission.
Stood to the left of a very old, tall oak tree, she could see for miles in the early morning light which, in the middle of winter, was an eerie but beautiful sight, showing nature at its best. She scanned the landscape in front of her and was relieved to see no one around, only farm animals on the peaks of higher ground, all huddled together against the bitter, wet weather that left you in no doubt that winter was well and truly here. To the right of her was a small cluster of trees, bare branches looking like long gnarled fingers reaching to the dull sky, no longer bearing their fruits of summer, defeated in the winter months.
She knew this would be the best spot for her to get the result she needed, so with a stubborn determination she waited. Twenty minutes later she heard a faint snapping of twigs on the ground, about thirty feet away and she unknowingly held her breath for a few seconds before slowly exhaling without a sound. Silently, she positioned her body against the oak tree so that she could get a better view, all the time ensuring her movements were minimal to avoid being noticed. With her heartbeat rapid and the blood rushing in her ears she acknowledged to herself that the wait had been worth it as her reason for being here was now a short distance from her in all its glory. Standing at over six feet tall, the target was hard to miss, and exhaling the warm breath made it visible for quite a distance.
Clutching the smooth, wet metal, she very slowly raised it to her eyes to ensure focus in the viewer, slightly adjusting it for maximum benefit. Once satisfied that all was now ready, she proceeded to take deep, steady breaths before taking the shot and allowed herself a couple of minutes to comprehend what she had just done. Her actions would have a long lasting effect on her life, but she knew it was her decision to act as she did.
Her body stopped shivering after an hour in a very hot bath, but she felt exhausted for the rest of the day; at the same, she time felt that she had done what she had aimed to do for many years. Two months later, she received an official-looking letter; she knew what it was about but felt sick at what the contents would reveal. All her hard work and time had been for the decision within the envelope, yet she stood rooted to the floor, unable to pick it up. Telling herself to just get it over with, she ripped open the handwritten envelope, took out a sheath of quality paper, and proceed to read it.
"Congratulations. We have great pleasure in awarding you with our top prize of ‘Best Wildlife Photo’ in our annual competition. Your photograph of a wild stag on a winter's day impressed all the judges who were all in agreement that your entries fulfilled all the requirements of the competition."