Palmyra, Syria

I took this picture the day before I almost lost my life at the ruins of Palmyra in Syria. This girl and her family lived in a hut inside the ruins and made these rugs by hand.

I was using a Holga camera so I needed to take my beanie off to get a good view through the lens. I thought I put the beanie in my pocket but it must have fallen on the ground. I didn't realize I had lost it until early the next morning when my friends and I decided to walk to the nearby hills to watch the sunrise over the ruins. I knew we would pass close to the girl's hut so I split up from my friends to find my lost goods.

After a while of unsuccessful searching I was ready to give up when everything around me suddenly went quiet. I had this sinking feeling that someone was watching me. I slowly lifted my head to see a snarling, man-eating canine five yards away. I recognized him from the day before when he was thrashing at me while I took pictures of his master, the girl with the rug. He was chained up then, but now he was on guard duty.

I slowly backed away, thinking maybe if I pretend not to notice him he'll leave me alone. That's when I saw it; death dog number two, waiting like a velociraptor from Jurassic Park.

But bad things come in threes. By the time I saw the final dog the first two were already sprinting at me like starving death angels.

There was no time to run or call for help, it was just me against the wild. I understood the gravity of the situation but in that moment of truth I was calm for some reason, I knew I would think of something.

That's when I remembered a piece of advice my Australian friend Ricky T. had given me ten years previous, "If you're ever being chased by a bunch of guys bigger than you, pick up as many rocks as you can and start chucking them right at their heads. Even if the rocks hit their arms, the pain will kill." Lucky for me, ancient ruins provide lots of rocks perfect for throwing.

The thousands of snowball fights I had growing up in the endless winters of Utah prepared me for this moment in a desert far, far away. I kept low to the ground in order to grab rocks fast, then fire. Grab and fire, grab and fire, like a human machine gun. I went into a rock throwing trance.

One at a time, I aimed for their heads. My first throw barely missed, but the noise of the rocks clacking against the ruins was frightening enough to stop their charge. The next rock might have hit a dog but I didn't look long enough to see, I was already reaching for more ammo. Miraculously, it worked. The dogs slowly backed off, then finally trotted away, defeated.

The cover photo of my album "Language of Ghosts" was also taken the day before this incident. You can't really tell, but in the picture I'm wearing the beanie while standing on the ruins. On the back cover is a picture of me taken just after the dog fight, running to the top of the hill to see Palmyra before sunrise, beanie-less, but a little more alive.