While scouting photography locations for an upcoming corporate photography photo-shoot in downtown Denver today, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the cyclical nature of my career in photography. My meeting with Sheryl Anderson of Wells Anderson & Race – a Denver law firm, was productive. We evaluated some fantastic locations for the group portrait photography session later this month as we talked about logistics and details. On a side note, I entitled the folder for this mini project “WAR_Scout” (a shortened version of Wells Anderson & Race_Scouting pics).
Earlier this morning my new 20 mm lens arrived. So when I headed downtown to determine the best locations for the corporate group photography portrait, I opted to bring the new wide glass. Now here’s the serendipitous part. Back in my old photo-jornalism days, the 20 was my go-to lens. I remember like it’s yesterday the photo-spreads I did for The Crested Butte Pilot, The Gunnison Country Times, and Colorado Homes & Lifestyle Magazine. The 20 was always a big part of those photo-shoots. And although I consciously tried not to lean too heavily on my favorite workhorse, the best shots were often made with the 20.
I lost that lens 20 years ago in a rapid with no name on the Green River through Split mountain Canyon. It was the summer of 1995 and I was doing some action shots for Adventure Bound River Expeditions – the same company with whom I spent my college summers as a river guide. It was the last day of a four day river trip and I was exhausted from paddling that inflatable kayak in circles. My job was to find the optimum vantage point for the action-photos of the other rafts and kayaks as they pounded the white-water. Plus, I was trying to impress my sweetie Brenda who was my sole passenger. We snaked into the last swift water and I remembered that if I hugged the cliff on the right side, there was always a nice sized wave – even in low water. But I made a lazy lazy mistake – a stupid 2nd year boatman mistake. As I always tell my pre-teen son, look out for the second-year river guide. The first-year boatman is too timid to make daring mistakes and third (or more)-year guides are savvy enough to know how to find maximum experience without endangering their cargo.
My 20mm lens along with all my other 35mm gear rests under that no-name rapid still today. As we entered that wee bit of white-water, my kraft was under inflated. Like I said, it was an unnamed nothing rapid at the very end of a taxing trip. Of course the little wave was actually not so little. We flipped. Now here’s the Really stupid unforgivable lazy thing I did that day. My beautiful Pelican equipment case was lashed down properly, but there was NO lashing through the latch of the case – nothing to keep the case from bouncing open when we capsized. With adrenaline strength I grabbed the back of Brenda’s lifejacket with one fist and the kayak with the other. I was shocked that I could stand on a submersed rock against the rushing water long enough to contain the damage. But the damage was done. I saw both sides of my Pelican face down and floating canisters of recorded film bobbing in the waves. During my river days I was known as a low key soft spoken guide. But on this day my voice echoed far into the labyrinth… “SON-OF-A-BITCH”. With my head hung low I gathered up as many film canisters as I could reach before they floated away.
Funny how a lens can conjure old stories. But camera gear to a professional photographer sometimes has its own life. Like an old favorite shoe, we feel lost without its companionship. But in the 90s, I shot almost entirely with medium format – my other friend. In fact, I loved my Hassleblad gear and used it far more than the 35 mm Nikon gear. Then, the digital revolution came, and the new trend was zoom lenses. My workhorse lens was the 17-55mm zoom. Now full circle, my (one day old) 20mm buddy and I are looking to make a whole new portfolio of images.