Last Light

So, I'm not exactly sure where to begin.  This actually happened back in October, but it still stings...and, thus, I've been putting off writing this blog.  Unfortunately, it needs to be told (if only to pay respects).  I've gone through many titles in my head... "Good Memories", "Tears", "Thank You Insurance", "Put the Thing in the Bag", "Don't Climb Tired".  I decided on "Last Light", because that's what it was.  It's ironical that the "last light" happened when attempting to capture "first light".  Okay, enough of the intro, time to move on. Back in October, Beth went to a photography workshop in Mammoth, CA (absolutely beautiful by the way) for about a week. Since she was taking her terminal leave from the military this was easy for her.  Unfortunately, for me, I had to work during the week.  The rough plan was for me to drive out to meet her Friday night.  Unfortunately (yes I'm using that again), I was unable to get off work early to drive out there.  I ended up leaving Monterey around 7PMish.  Now, I don't really remember how long the drive was (or actually is), but it's long.  To make matters worse, I don't prefer to drive at night...or for that matter, long distances.  But everything was going well despite being tired and making a few u-turns.  That is, until I reached Yosemite.

Now, driving at night on the highway is doable, but driving through Yosemite in the dead of night...well, for me, not so much (mistake one).  Nothing terrible happened except that it took forever.  It's dark there–really dark.  I somehow arrived safely to Mammoth after seeing several deer that looked like they thought playing chicken would be fun (making me drive slower) and learning that "speeding kills bears" (I was no where near speeding).  I think it was around 1AM or 2AMish (you'll have to confirm with Beth) when I finally got there.

Beth was outside to meet me and guide me (or carry me) to the hotel room/bed.  I don't remember much about this, so again, Beth may have to confirm.  All I really remember was being tired and knowing that Beth was going to wake me up in a couple of hours to go shoot the sunrise.  I think when my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.  I'm pretty sure it was almost instantaneous...zzzzzzz.

Not being a morning person, the morning came way too early or maybe the later still early morning came too soon.  I thought I had just drifted off to sleep when Beth was waking me up to go out and shoot.  I dragged my feet out of bed and then down to the car–somewhere along the way I met some of the other photographers we were shooting with.  Again, I think I tried to catch some sleep on the way to sunrise location (which was good).

When we finally arrived at the "first light" location, I was tired (mistake two) but feeling okay.  We met up with the other photographers and then started to hike out.  We followed a trail for a good distance and then, of course, because I'm me, I decided that the shot of the mountains and the valley would be better from higher up.  So, off-trailing I went (mistake three).  I'm somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to caring camera gear, so I have my camera slung over my shoulder and I'm carrying my tripod (mistake four).  Up I continued.

I stopped a few times and then finally decided on a spot.  I setup my tripod, mounted the camera and snapped a few photos.  Most if not all of these shots were test shots.  I was trying to get the composition the way I wanted it and mucking with long exposures.  The sun was just starting to peak above the horizon when (for some dumb reason) I decided that the current spot I was at was not high enough (mistake five).  Being tired and thinking that I only needed to climb about 20 more yards was my mistake.  I thought, "No problem, I'll just hike a bit more up there and I'll be good."  Since the sun was beginning to rise, I suppose I felt rushed (mistake six).

In a tired haste, I started climbing.  However, I didn't take the camera off of the tripod like I normally do when I'm hiking (mistake seven...and perhaps the big one).  I was almost to the spot I wanted to be in when it happened.  I stepped on a big rock that I thought was stable...and it was...but only for a moment.  Now, I've fallen before with my camera...even with the big 100-400mm on.  I've always been able to keep the camera out of danger.  But this time, the camera was on the tripod when the rock gave out.

Fortunately, I was okay.  The photographer behind me asked if I was okay...he thought I broke my leg or something.  Unfortunately, I knew immediately when I caught myself that something broke.  The camera mounted on the tripod had hit the rock as I caught myself from falling...and it snapped in half.  Yes, that's right, I said it snapped in half.  My favorite lens of late, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM lens was done.  Cut down in her a dumb mistake.  Somehow, the glass in the lens was unscathed--but the lens was in two.  My camera mind you, the cheapest part of the whole system was perfectly fine (save some dust on the sensor probably).

Of all the things to break, I would have rather it have been the camera and not the lens.  Bummer.  So, distraught, I hike over to Beth cradling the remains of her and explained to Beth what happened and that I was going back to the car to have a nap.  My morning of shooting was done.  I was tired and mad at myself for being so careless...oh well.  In memory of my favorite lens, here is the last photograph, the test photograph from about 15 yards from the accident, the last light.

Moment of silence...

Cut Down in Her Prime...

Fortunately, we insure our lenses and we were reimbursed for all but about $20 of the price and a filter or two.

Big Shoes to Fill...

So, I suppose, nothing was really lost in the end...only a few bucks.  But it still hurts to look at her in pieces.  I'm hopeful that perhaps she'll be able to be repaired someday.

Lessons Learned:

- Maybe I should put the camera in a bag.

- Don't leave the camera on the tripod and hike up a mountain.

- Don't hike and carry a camera up a mountain tired.

- Don't hike on less than three hours of sleep.

- Don't be rushed.

- Don't always try to get higher.

- ALWAYS insure your lenses.

- Make every shot count as it may be the last one.