They say that, “Into every life, rain must fall,” and so it was on a recent trip I made with my friend to the Palouse. The 810 is in all respects a professional body and can take a beating. So I don’t have a second camera body as the cost of owning a second 810 body is more than I can consider to have a backup. For those rare occasions where I’m going on an extended, or once-in-a-lifetime kinds of trips, I’ve rented a spare body just in case. But I didn’t consider the Palouse, which is a five-hour trip from my house, to be one of those destinations.
The Palouse is a fabulous location to shoot pictures in. Rolling hills, old farm equipment and barns, dramatic skies and more. You can venture down nearly any dirt road and find something worthwhile to take pictures of, which is exactly what my friend and I did. We were working out of the back of my car, leaving our camera bags there, getting what we needed, and then once upon a subject, setting up and shooting. That evening, after arriving back at the hotel and unloading the car, I slung my camera bag over my shoulder, and an instant later, heard a very disconcerting sound. I had carelessly left the top of my camera bag unzipped, and that sound was the impact of my camera and “go to” lens hitting the pavement. The camera literally exiting the top of the bag at shoulder height.
Funny thing about electronics, they seldom seem to enjoy drops from heights. With a giant pit in my stomach, I picked the camera up and had a quick once-over. Nothing seemed extraordinarily out of the ordinary. The lens remained affixed to the body. The camera powered up. While it was dark outside, I pointed the camera at some lights and it seemed to pull focus and the shutter tripped. “Thank heavens for professional gear,” I exclaimed.
The next morning we left at “0 dark thirty,” for Steptoe Butte to catch the sunrise raking across that gorgeous landscape. I got my camera out, put on a filter holder, affixed it to the tripod and began to adjust my settings. To my bewilderment, I couldn’t adjust any settings for aperture, shutter speed, etc. It also wouldn’t pull focus automatically. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to do much of anything. I took my camera to the car and tried resetting it to factory settings, but nothing. I was crestfallen. Short story long, the lens mount in the body had taken a hit by the impact, and the lens no longer made contact with the camera body contacts. I did manage to stumble on this phenomenon later, and by tilting the camera body towards the top of the lens, be able to make pictures. After a taking trip to Nikon’s Service Department (who turned the repairs to camera and lens around in less than 10 days), and a general emptying of my wallet, my camera is back, and probably better than new. The lenses sure seem to fit the body more snuggly than before.
So, to finally get to the point of this post. When you’re out and about, ALWAYS make sure your bag is zipped, or your case closed when moving it. This wasn’t exactly the first time something like this happened to me, although the last time the bag was on the ground, and in moving it, a lens tumbled out. Not a big deal that time. But what if I’d been on the edge of Horseshoe Bend, and the thousand foot drop below and that had happened. Apparently I wasn’t very good about learning this lesson the first time and I clearly needed to learn it again. There won’t be a third time, I promise you.
Some other ways to be prepared. Make sure that you have a spare, fully charged battery, and some extra memory cards with you. You never know when you’ll see a once-in-a-lifetime shots, and you don’t want miss it because the battery in your camera died.
Keep some plastic bags in your pocket. Another thing electronics don’t seem to like is moisture. A hotel shower cap works perfectly as well. If you find yourself in a sudden downpour, you can stretch the shower cap over the camera and the little elastic band on it keeps it secure until you can get your gear stored. And don’t forget to keep a microfiber towel in your bag as well, to dry everything off.
And of course, if you can carry a spare body with you; do! Sometimes there is no “tomorrow” in photography. That moment will be gone forever if you’re not prepared to capture it!