Near misses


On more than one occasion, I have seriously underestimated the power of the ocean. When near the shoreline, I usually watch the waves for a few minutes trying to establish a pattern as to when the bigger waves are going to hit, but every now and then I still get surprised. Imagine how wet my camera got right after making this photograph at Monument Cove in Acadia National Park.

Windy conditions can cause an unstable tripod, as can wet sand being shaped by the ebb and flow of the tide. The other more likely mistake though involves me leaving the camera in a far from balanced position on a tripod that is just crying out to be kicked accidentally. Several times I have tripped over an extended tripod leg, calling on my cat-like reflexes to dive and save the camera from a nasty spill. Despite several near misses, so far I had been quite lucky.

However, when Sam and I were in Ireland, I dropped my camera… hard. Maybe it was the anticipation of a cold Guinness that had clouded my thoughts as I grabbed my backpack from the rear of the car at the end of the day and swung it over my shoulder. Fully loaded, my camera backpack is fairly heavy, so it takes a pretty good swing to get it on my back properly… that didn’t help, only adding momentum to the fall. Normally before moving my camera bag, I do a 24-point check to make sure everything is in its proper place and that all zippers are zipped correctly… but not this time.

The sound of camera gear hitting concrete is not a sound any photographer wants to hear, so when I heard the crash, a knot immediately materialized in my stomach. I closed my eyes and literally paused for a moment, before turning to see the extent of the damage – and to curse my stupidity. When I finally did turn around, I looked down to see my flash lying in several pieces, a card reader and a cable release were spilled too, but worse still was the sight of my newly purchased 5D MKII with a 17-40mm lens still attached to it sprawled on the hotel sidewalk.

I blindly scooped everything up and didn’t even look at the camera. Along with everything else that fell out, I shoved it into the backpack and you know it… I zipped up correctly this time. All I could think about on the way up to the room was how careless I had been, where it took me a few minutes to pluck up the courage to open the bag and assess the damage. The card reader and the cable release were of course OK, and with some strategically placed duct tape the flash will be fine too.

Now for the camera and lens… I toggled the on/off button to see if there was any life… and there was, phew! I then started spinning the camera and lens in every direction, scouring them both to find the mark of what must have been a significant impact… nothing! I have no idea what part of this combination hit the ground first, but there wasn’t even a scratch. I of course breathed a huge sigh of relief, and feeling like I had just dodged a bullet, vowed to never make a mistake like that again. Just in case… I have been keeping an eye on the performance of both the camera and the lens since, and so far so good… no problems.


6 thoughts on “Near misses

  1. Ben Horne

    Yikes!!! I’m glad your camera survived the fall. That must have been a sickening sound. When I was in Zion last fall, I watched another photographer dunk a Pro Nikon body + expensive lens in about a foot of water. Even though it wasn’t my equipment, I cringed.

  2. David Patterson

    Ben… thanks. I am glad I wasn’t near any water when I dropped the camera. It was one of those moments when everything slowed down in my head and my thoughts played like a slo-mo video. All sorts of things went through my mind including… seeing the camera and lens in pieces on the ground, why didn’t I buy that extra warranty, what camera will I be able to afford next, and would my homeowner’s insurance cover the loss? I truly did expect to see either the lens or camera smashed, so I know how lucky I was.

    • David Patterson

      Me too! I can’t imagine what would have happened if this latest camera hadn’t survived the fall. Methinks my photographic career would have been over!

  3. Great story, however the circumstances of the camera falling were not… I am fortunate to have a camera that is weatherproof… you can literally run it under a faucet and not worry. Thanks for this great PSA. I will ensure that I continue to perform a 24 point check.

    • David Patterson

      It’s easy to forget the smallest detail, especially when climbing over wet rocks or trying to dodge an incoming wave. So far I haven’t had any more near misses, but now that I I’ve just said, that I’m going to have to be on my guard 🙂

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