I'd Lost Two Cameras in Two Weeks: What More Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I'd Lost Two Cameras in Two Weeks: What More Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Two trips in two weeks, and on the first day of each trip, I'd lost a camera. How did it all come about and where did it end?

I've written before about protecting your camera gear, including how to minimize the likelihood of having it stolen or lost, and then how to maximize your chances of getting it back. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about losing the first camera and the lessons learned in terms of being able to continue shooting with a smartphone.

I'm very particular about the way I pack and travel. I use a standard messenger bag or rucksack so I don't advertise what I'm carrying, with every piece of gear labeled with my email address. I use a strap to secure the camera to me, try not to remove it unless absolutely necessary, and then visually check anywhere I've been sitting to make sure I haven't left anything behind. It's common sense that should be routine.

On the first trip to Vienna, I genuinely can't remember not having the camera (a diminutive Fuji M1). I can only assume I took it off when sitting on the train and left it on the seat. The camera and lens were labeled, but no one contacted me and lost property had no record of it. It was gone, and it took me several hours before I even realized.

The second loss was sadly quite similar, except this time, it was with my Nikon D700 and favorite Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D lens. I was waiting at a bus stop in Copenhagen and became paranoid about where I'd left my credit card holder. I took the camera and rucksack off and then stripped everything out looking for it. I couldn't find it, so I repeated the exercise without success. I looked up and saw the bus coming, threw everything back in the bag, and jumped on the bus. And in that moment, I picked up the rucksack, but not the camera. I realized my mistake about five minutes later, jumped off the bus at the next stop, and returned to the start, where I found an empty bus stop.

It was a heartbreaking moment, not least because the D700 and this camera in particular felt a part of me, an extension of my eyes. I phoned lost property for the transit company to find they only operate weekdays and that I needed to speak to each bus route individually. On Monday morning, I phoned the bus company, but nothing had been handed in.

As with the first camera, I was resigned to the fact that I had stupidly lost the Nikon. There was no one else to blame. Then, on Monday afternoon, I had an email from Nara saying she had found my camera in Copenhagen. Several emails later, it turned out that not only had she found it, she worked near London, had brought it back with her, and all I had to do was go and collect it! I was gobsmacked, elated, and relieved. A train journey the following day reunited me with my kit, along with profuse thanks to Nara (and a small gift).

There are a number of lessons learned from these two trips. Firstly, try to be in the moment. Every time you are in transit and particular when in transition, be cognizant of your surroundings and belongings. In short, be like a Buddhist! Try not to remove your camera gear, and if you do, always check a location before you leave it. Secondly, don't be distracted (as I was in Copenhagen). Not only is it a surefire way to lose track of your gear and what you are doing, but it is also a classic method for gear theft (as with Brett Costello's theft of $40,000 of gear at the Rio Olympics). Thirdly, labeling gear and registering it on gear sites (such as Lenstag) maximizes your chances of having it returned. Don't put off doing it (ask yourself now, have you labeled every piece of kit you would be upset at losing and do you have their serial numbers?). Fourthly, there are decent people around! In fact, I'd go as far to say that most people are decent. Don't let isolated gear losses persuade you otherwise. Keep faith in the world.

Lead image courtesy of The Digital Way via Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.

Mike Smith's picture

Mike Smith is a professional wedding and portrait photographer and writer based in London, UK.

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Oops! Sometimes we pay more for our lessons and sometimes less. Either way, it is important we keep on learning.

Learning like "stop leaving your expensive gear unattended in public places for hours"?

He's 0 for 2 at this point...

Also isn't that a nice header image for an article about repeatedly losing his stuff? I thought maybe it'd be a story about how someone stole Mike's gear, but no, just that he left it behind through neglect.

Oh it was definitely theft, because someone took something that wasn't theirs, even if they did find it unattended at a bus stop. "Finders keepers" may be a schoolyard saying, but it isn't actually a law!

Is this really what it's coming to.... dumbing down down down..... The photo is someone in a hoodie with a ski mask and a crow bar breaking into a door. Then the text explains how he's a moron and "forgets" his camera.... not once but twice. Really. And you were chosen to write for this blog....

This is the first time I've ever used this term; CLICKBAIT. This is how photojournalism has devolved in the 21st Century. A picture of a guy with a mask on using a pry bar to break a lock and the story is about being really careless with your gear.

I figured this was going to be about a home break in or a hotel room that was trashed and stuff was taken. Fooled me!

This photo would have been more appropriate. More of a Dummy than a Jerk, but the character still comes to mind when someone leaves 2 cameras behind in 2 weeks.

Maybe he should look into adding a Tile to his camera bags.

On all my memory cards I put a photo on the dcim folder which has my contact details, made read-only. If someone finds or is offered the camera for sale and looks through the photos, they'll know who the owner is. Honest people will know how to return the camera to me, slightly dishonest people can't pretend they kept the camera because they couldn't find the owner, and if the police find it they can contact me easily.

Thats a great tip!

I got you beat on the stupidity scale though... Our house had been broken into once before and in an effort to minimize quick-grabs if it ever happened again, I lock valuable equipment in a safe, but in a hurry I would sometimes place cameras or lenses in quick hiding places when I leave; if they don't see it they might not grab it, right? Well, rushing out the door to a meeting I hastily stashed a beloved D800 body in an new and unused small waste basket and placed a plastic box over it. While I was away my girlfriend decided to go on an uncharacteristic cleaning spree and did a very thorough job. Late Monday night I was looking all over for the D800, having forgotten where I put it. I frantically searched all the usual places, all the camera bags, and every corner of the house. Tuesday Morning (trash day) the beeps of the garbage tuck must have sparked the memory and I gave comfort, "its just over there in the basket, under that box!" I made a cup of coffee, then a phone call and went to grab my trusted Nikon... GASP! It took me a few more minutes then I care to admit but eventually put it together and exploded out the front door as the garbage truck, long gone, could be heard in the distance. Terror. A protruding box from my neighbors blue bin, indicated the recycling truck had not yet arrived. Hope. I upended our recycling bin in a fury heard a heavy thunk, it was there! Panicked heart-ponding turned to into awkward laughter and relief. Moral of the story, don't hide stuff in in a wastebasket like an idiot, and more important, always recycle.

That must have been a heart stopping moment! For all the times we hear of people losing or having gear stolen, it's great to know that it doesn't always end that way!

Yes, but most of us have home owner's insurance and if you gear is stolen because your house was robbed, you'll get a check to cover it. A bit inconvenient due to paper work and having to be cameraless for a bit but you're eventually going to shooting again with no loss to your bank account.

Leaving your camera on a bench? I doubt State Farm will write a policy for that.

Your belongings are covered under your home insurance, no matter where and how it was lost or damaged. Only thing is you have to evaluate if it is worth paying the deductible and raised premium after that claim. Plus, the policy may only cover up to a certain amount limit and not the whole cost of the item. So it is important for hobby photographer to check their policy to see if they have enough coverage for all their equipment. Professionals shouldn't rely on their home policy at all and instead should get business insurance to cover their gears and liabilities. Family works in insurance.

Here in England you can extend your home insurance to cover camera gear outside the home. But they will only pay out if the gear was secure when stolen, so inside a locked hotel room or boot of a car, or mugged in the street.

they definitely wouldn't pay out if you left camera on a table in a cafe and went to the toilet for example.

I left my camera on a bench in Seoul back in 2015. Luckily someone was kind enough to inform me, so I ran back and grabbed it. Since then I always, always, always do a perimeter sweep before moving from one location to another. Haven’t forgotten anything since.

I was in Barcelona with a backpack on, camera on a Blackrapid strap at my side, and discovered that my backpack had been unzipped by someone while I was negotiating the tunnels of the subway system, probably by someone behind me on the escalator. There was little of value in the backpack other than a spare lens, which was hidden under a rain jacket in the main compartment, and was not found by the unzipper. So, I didn't lose anything, but got a nasty shock and a cautionary tale out of it. This explained why I saw so many people wearing their backpacks in front of themselves rather on their backs.