How Not to Dunk a Camera

One of many trip reports by Alan Silverstein.
Last update: December 5, 2009

The following was posted December 4, 2009 to the WaynesWords.com recreation forum, with the title: "How not to dunk camera ('another bad example')".

Now I have a little story of stupidity to share. Repeating the aphorism... "Nothing is ever a complete waste, it can always serve as a bad example."

The link below takes you to a photo I just posted that shows Greg nearly waist-deep in the narrows in Forty Mile Canyon. During this outing (and others), I had my big daypack on my back, and my digital camera in a hip holster on my belt. That includes while wading through the various narrows... Carefully... Watching not to slip into a hole, etc.

The photos I took this day, and a couple more days on this trip, are the last ones I took on this particular camera... Because I dunked it... But... not in Forty Mile! Therein lies a short tale.

My first (cheap) digital camera went underwater twice at the lake, but only briefly, and it survived both times after I dried it out quickly. That is, until a hike in 2008 up Ticaboo Canyon when it started shooting overexposed pictures, but I never got it back to the houseboat to diddle with it because that's also the hike where it popped out of the holster with the weak velcro, I lost the camera, and I couldn't find it. (Sorry, Trash Trackers, please do me a favor...) Oh well, I moved onto my second (cheap), backup digital camera, the one that took these pics.

Now until my wife's last dog (a big black labrador) died of old age in the spring, I used to take her out with me rockhounding on the Colorado prairie ("high steppe", the Pawnee National Grasslands). She loved running around off-leash. (Yes, both rockhounding and dog-running are legal out there, which is why we used to do it. The regulations are very relaxed. For example, they recommend you don't mountain-bike cross-country... Because of the cactus.)

During one of these outings, I learned the following the hard way:

"Never leave anything on the bumper of your car that you intend to take home with you."

After that outing, I was nearly home (45 minutes away) when I remembered the rock hammer.

A week later Ace had a sale, and I bought another one.

Two weeks after that, on our next trip to the prairie, I drove past the same spot where I'd parked the last time. Lo and behold, plainly visible off the gravel road in the short grass, was the old hammer. Hardly at all the worse for wear. No one else driving by here had noticed it. So now I have two! It's good to own a spare.

Well after returning from LP, I did a load of laundry. The pail is upstairs, the machine is downstairs. The PC, where I download photos, is upstairs. Stuff on its way to be "mailed" up or down the stairs, I leave at the bottom or top of the stairs.

Unfortunately what I learned this time was:

"Never set anything on top of the laundry basket that you don't intend to put through the washing machine."

What an inglorious end for a well-traveled camera!

You can probably imagine the rest, but I'll tell you a bit about it anyway. Heading downstairs with the laundry, I tossed a lot of pending items onto the top of the bucket, including the camera I'd just downloaded, and carried it to the main level. Then I took off the various papers, etc, that had come downstairs with me.

The camera was in a black case.

Somewhat later, emptying out the washing machine, I reached in for the next item and my hand came out holding something odd, it didn't fit, I wasn't sure how to fold it, it was out of context. It was... The camera case. Empty. A split second later the horrible realization dawned on me...

Fishing around, I found the spare battery bag from the camera case, and then the camera. Soggy. Lens extended like it was about to take a picture. The poor thing had apparently turned itself on, in a desperate attempt to document the inside of the washer where it was being savaged, before expiring of drowning.

Of course the camera was not salvageable. But to my surprise, the batteries and SD card inside it, and the spares, were all OK -- since they hadn't been floating in salt water, I suppose.

Previous posted pic of Greg in Forty Mile narrows.


Re: How not to dunk camera (PS about spares)
In Response To: How not to dunk camera ("another bad example")

And a PS about cameras and spares... I just wrote, regarding a rock hammer:

> So now I have two! It's good to own a spare.

Well now regarding digital cameras... When I first bought a cheap one to play with, around 2003 at a Walmart after-Thanksgiving sale, it cost $100 for no optical zoom, few features, a small display, and 3 MP. But I liked the camera so much I ended up using it a lot, probably shot over 5000 pictures with it. I also, before they ran out, bought another one as a gift for my wife... And one for my daughter... And one for my brother-in-law.

Later Sears had a sale on Polaroid digital cameras, 5 MP, optical zoom, lotsa features, for $80. So I bought a spare camera... And another one at the same time as a gift for my wife.

The first camera is the one I lost in Ticaboo. The second camera is the one I ran through the washing machine in September.

Now my wife hardly ever takes digital pictures, on either camera. After I drowned the second camera, I was going to move on to my newer backup, a slightly higher end Polaroid... That I bought at Big Lots for even less than $80 (don't recall how much)... But, my wife said, "why don't you take my old Polaroid and use it up first? I like the simple little first camera, that you got me, better." Bless her.

So that's how I took, for example, the Breckenridge pictures I posted a while ago. Same kind of camera, but a different incarnation of it.

The newer Polaroid, my current backup, is even nicer than the first one, except for one little annoyance. Whereas I can set the older camera to shoot 1 MP pics, fine resolution, and get 1024x768 images around 200-300 Kb per file, the new one only offers smaller (yuck) or a lot bigger. Too big for "native" viewing on typical decent-resolution screens today. Bigger files too.

One friend says, always shoot the very highest quality pictures you can, and to heck with the file sizes. He's right in the sense that SD, USB, and disk sizes and speeds keep improving and reducing in cost all the time. But it's been my experience that there's a "natural" size for posting (and downloading, even at 16 Mbit internet speeds like I have) pictures, and 1024x768 is about it, maybe even on the large side for some folks. At least if you wrap them in HTML, which makes for much easier navigation, which is the case here in WW and also in my personal web album. (Only when the URL is directly to a JPG file can a browser auto-size the image down to fit the screen.)

So if/when I move on to the newer camera, or regret enough times not having higher-res photos for people who want to print them, and start shooting larger image files, I'll have to downsize them all before posting. Which isn't a huge deal, but one more inconvenient step I suppose.