DRESS TO GET WET
"DRESS TO GET WET" the assignment sheet said. I was to cover a practice of the Tacoma Dragon Boat Association on the Thea Foss Waterway in Puget Sound just north of downtown Tacoma.
Dragon Boats resemble
very long canoes with dozens of people paddling. The flat, calm waters
of the Puget Sound are ideal for racing such boats, and the Tacoma
group was preparing for a big competition in Canada the day I photographed
them. News Tribune sports writer Bob Mottram decided to strap on a
life-vest and paddle with a group from the association to see what
it was all about. I opted to photograph from a nearby dock to keep
my cameras dry (I was told they would get "soaked" on the boat).
Two boats were in the water and they practiced starts, going back and forth in front of me for several hundred yards. I staked out my spot on a nearby dock, sitting down with my legs dangling over the edge. I shot with my 300 f/2.8 when they were farther away, and as they came close, switched to my 70-200 which I had sitting next to me on the dock with my other EOS-1n body.
Moving right to left, one of the boats approached me and I realized my 300 was too much lens. I set it down on the dock right next to me on my right and picked up the 70-200 which I had on my left. The boat passed in front of me, quickly moving farther away to my left. I slowly pivoted on my butt to follow them as they made their way away from me.
As I pivoted, I nudged my other camera into the salty Puget Sound.
I looked down and saw a scene that I can still see in my mind today: my EOS-1n and 300 f/2.8 just below the waterıs surface, the lens hood looking up at me, bubbles all around, the red "Canon" strap flailing as my $5000 investment quickly sank. I froze. There was no going in after it. I kept watching as it drifted out of site into the emerald depths.
As you could imagine, I was in shock. I walked back to the car, incredulous to the fact that I was walking back without some of what I had come with. There was no retrieving it, the camera and lens are gone forever.
Yes, it was insured. Preliminary word from the insurance company is it won't be a hassle to replace. Thank God for that.
At least now when the old photogs tell their harrowing stories of damaged camera equipment I have something to chime in with.
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