Photographers, Theft and Antidepressants
I think that it goes without saying not everyone in this big bright world is as intelligent as the next guy, but there are some preventative measures you can take in the security of both yourself and your camera equipment. This entry, however, is more concerned with the latter. Concerning your personal safety, I would highly suggest a self-defense class taught by a professional. If you’re unfamiliar with the search engine Google I recommend powering off your computer, standing up and announcing your existance on this planent as over. However, you can locate such courses here.
About three weeks ago my vehicle was broken into in downtown Dallas. Stumbling to my car from a nightclub, I recall the sight as if it were a dream. The glass from my diver side window littered the pavement of the congested parking lot, my dash torn to shreds and my electronic equipment missing.
In all, the expenses would amount to approximately $600 of damaged and stolen property and an experience I hope not to have repeated.
After gathering my senses and filing a police report, I began to wonder, “What if my camera equipment had been inside?” A thought that even before this event could send shivers down my spine. To even begin to imagine the loss of my equipment is a conception I struggle to endure, especially to a thief.
This leads me to a story about my friend, Jon H. Unfortunately Jon was the victim of a similar experience, but rather than outright theft it was a bad case of amnesia; a nightmare turned reality.
Turns out, Jon [and my other good friend, Zack H.] were out a bar one evening catching up. Zack, who doesn’t drink, met Jon at a local bar in Denton just a few miles from our university. When he arrived, Jon set his camera bag down on the floor at the edge of the table to rest against his foot, reminding him it was there and to alert him should someone attempt to steal it.
The contents of the bag? A brand new Canon 5D Mark II and a few of those nice L-series lenses.
After about an hour, Jon (who only drank one beer) and Zack call it a night. They both leave, Jon goes home, goes to sleep, wakes up the next day and begins to empty some memory cards of film footage the three of us shot the evening before of a wrestling match at a Denton bar, Cool Beans. Then, it hits him.
“Where’s my camera?” Jon recalls asking. Then he knew it. The last place Jon had his camera was at the bar the night before. Doing what any reasonable, rational person would do, Jon called the bar he was at with Zack the night prior asking if anyone had turned in the camera. The answer was: No.
Without much to go off of, Jon did the same thing I did after my GPS, radio and radar detector were stolen from my vehicle – he completed a police report. With the camera body alone retailing at an MSRP of $2,500, you can only imagine the total value of the contents in that bag. But if it wasn’t the physical cost that destroyed every part of your living, breathing being – it was the act of losing it. All of it.
To this day, Jon still hasn’t recovered his property – and what’s further is that it can’t be categorized as ‘stolen’, because it was left and ‘found’ on a private establishment.
The moral, need I actually say it: Don’t be forgetful around thousands of dollars worth of valuable camera equipment, which, by the way, is also how you make your living (presumably).
I say this out of complete respect and love for Jon. He’s a great person, willing to do anything to help out a friend and totally undeserving of this event. But if nothing else, he’s learned a valuable lesson. When he told me about this, I was speechless. I honestly don’t know what I would do if this happened to me, except cry for a very, very long time and abandon my apetite for food as I would only deserve to starve myself.
So, this leads me to preventative measures. What can you do to ensure the safety of your camera equipment?
Secure your items in a bag for the purposes of secrecy, not necessarily protection. It’s my view that a bag of practically any fabric construction dropped from a height of four-feet or greater will have some otherwise significant influence on the functionality and performance of your digital camera. You spent ‘x’ amount of dollars on your investment, and you damn well better take care of it. Now granted someone bumping into you or an otherwise freak occurrence is out of your control, there’s not much you can do about that – but that’s why retailers offer extended warranties which cover accidental damage such as wear and tear and dropping. Bottom line: Your case isn’t going to protect your investment much from the forces of inertia and gravity – purchase something well built with good straps and you’ve already accomplished step A. Step B would be to secure the camera and its respective accessories and/or lenses in a bag that’s inconspicuous. I, for example, choose to use a National Geographic bag posed as a messenger bag and designed to hold DSLRs and lenses. It will even hold a notebook and has four compartments for miscellaneous items such as batteries and compact-flash cards. The choice is entirely up to you, this is just food for thought.
An image of the bag I use found below. Notice how it doesn’t have ‘Canon’ or ‘Nikon’ slapped on it?
Record – using several different methods – the serial and model numbers to your equipment. Photograph, write and email them to yourself so you can save them in multiple locations. Should you ever have to encounter the tragic loss of your equipment, you at least have specifics to provide to the police – and should you happen into a Pawn shop wherein there lies some equipment that appears strikingly similar to the property you had stolen, you may have a vested interest in digging deeper.
DO NOT HAND YOUR CAMERA TO STRANGERS. There could not possibly be a greater invitation for theft than to hand your camera off to a stranger, especially when traveling or in a geographic area wherein the individual has plenty of time (and space) to bolt off with it. If you’re going to choose to do this, why not give your camera to the fat hawaiian t-shirt wearing American in the straw hat and shades? They’re pretty abundant, and I promise their photo will be just as bad as the thief’s, should they choose to take a photo before calling out ‘Step back further!’… only to separate them from you even further, in-turn giving them more time to run. If you loose your camera this way, you deserve it. Don’t chase after them. They’ve probably done it many times, and more than likely, they’re armed.
When, if ever, would you allow for the theft of your camera? Gunpoint. Hopefully this is obvious, but no matter the value, no matter the contents of the memory card, surrender it all. Your life is more valuable than a machine whether it’s a camera or car, telescope or iPad. Give it up, and shut up. In this compromising and not-so-rare circumstance (especially when traveling), comply to best of your abilities and do your best to remember specific details about the individual(s) robbing you. Contact authorities after you’ve collected your senses again and be happy you exited the circumstance with your life.
Hopefully some of these tips will be obvious and easy to implement allowing you to better secure the safety of your camera. If you have other advice or tips on how to do so, feel free to leave comments below this entry – sharing knowledge is what we’re all here to do. Stay safe and happy shooting.