Normally my Two for Tuesday series is about someone (or something) other than myself. This time I’ll share a personal story, something scary that happened to me recently.
I’ve been traveling in Colorado, and made a swing through the Aspen area for the quaking aspen in fall color. I wasn’t really planning to go to the ever-popular Maroon Bells, but found myself driving up there as sunset approached. I knew there was no way I would be shooting the “Bells” from Maroon Lake. There are already about a million too-many shots of this on the internet and on walls everywhere.
Instead, I hiked past the throngs milling around the lake and on up-valley. The lake is only a few minutes’ walk from the parking lot, and is admittedly quite scenic. If you visit this area for the first time, go ahead and shoot from there. I did on my first visit. I’m really not trying to be smug. But if you’re a serious photographer, I think you’ll want to get your own take on the place and avoid the tired composition that has been shot to death.
I climbed up an avalanche chute, bushwacking through the colorful but infuriating undergrowth. I was sure I’d miss sunset, or rather the colorful skies as the sun set behind the mountains. The trees and brush were in my way and it was getting steeper. But I found a rock outcrop and, breathing hard, scrambled up. I crept out to the edge and got a great view with aspens in the foreground (image at top). I switched lenses from my Zeiss 21 mm. to the 50 mm. lens. This was a crucial decision.
Next day I drove to another part of Colorado. A couple evenings later I was shooting sunset and noticed an empty spot in my camera pack. My Zeiss 21 mm. lens was gone! This is a fairly new lens, currently the most expensive one I own. So I was devastated.
On the computer I reviewed the metadata for all my recent images. Although I had stopped and shot at a bunch of different spots to shoot, the last time I had used the Zeiss was shooting at the Maroon Bells. Hooray for metadata! Next morning I started the journey back across central Colorado, checking every place I had stopped, just in case the lens had somehow dropped out. In the back of my mind I suspected it was at either at that rock outcrop or it was gone for good.
By late afternoon I was back hiking past all the photographers at Maroon Lake. I had trouble finding the spot again. It was just a random spot on the mountainside, away from any trail. But toward sunset I recognized a tree and then the rock outcrop. I was nervous; this was my last chance. But I finally allowed myself to look down at where I’d been shooting. And there it was! It sat happily in the aspen leaves a foot or so from the edge of the cliff.
My shouts of joy echoed off the Maroon Bells. I thanked the gods that I wasn’t the type of person who shoots from all the usual spots. Needless to say, had I been at the lake that night, the lens would be long gone. But nobody would likely ever shoot from that rock outcrop. So except for the odd bear finding it and using it as a chew toy, I knew if I’d left it, it would still be there. The sun was setting. So to celebrate, I turned around and shot back toward the lake, where you can’t see but 50 or so tripods were lined up along the shore.
It’s a special kind of happy to find a lost $1600 lens on a mountain. But I was also dismayed at my forgetful nature, which I’ve lived with since I was a kid. Oh well, at this point in life you either accept all your failings or you drive yourself nuts.
Thanks for checking out the story and photos. Have a wonderful week!