(With apologies to Judith Viorst)

So there I stood in a hotel lobby in Seattle, attending a week-long series of governing committee and board meetings for my regular job, innocently minding my own business and apparently at peace with the universe, my camera strap strung jauntily, but seemingly firmly, on my shoulder. And then, boys and girls (and do be sitting down for this), for no good reason (I’m thinking malevolent fairies) and utterly without warning, the terrible, horrible, no good, Very Bad Thing happened: my Nikon D90 slid off my arm and, yes





I watched in helpless horror as my beloved, versatile, trustworthy, and much-used 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 popped right off the camera body and spun in a little arc accompanied by visible bits of plastic, the whole event making more noise than an object landing on a carpet should have generated: the sound of all hope and joy in my life shattering. The little plastic cover over the viewscreen on the back of the camera body came off, too, but it easily snapped right back in place. The lens snapped back in place, too—and then promptly fell off again in my hand. It became clear, after some fevered attempts to re-attach the lens, that whatever mechanism had once locked the lens in place was now hopelessly shattered.

A disaster by any measure. Adding to the horror, however, was the fact that I was expected to act as official photographer for a formal awards banquet in a matter of hours, featuring computer science notables from around the world. I had no other lenses with me, and the prospect of recording the awards banquet with my iPhone camera was unthinkable. Over the next few days, I also had a number of scheduled appointments to shoot nice headshots of several individuals.

This was so not good, for so many reasons, and it made my stomach hurt.

My first solution, following the successive failure of a remarkable stream of profanity, prayer to an array of dieties, and hurried small animal sacrifices offered to various more bloodthirsty dieties, was a last-ditch effort to temporarily repair the camera so it would work for at least the short-term. I went directly to the registration desk, where the following conversation ensued:

ME: (flushed, wild-eyed, and breathless) OK, this is an odd request, but I need about three feet of electrical tape.

DESK CLERK: Yes, sir, you’re right: that’s an odd request, and I won’t ask why.

Now, I should point out that this was a Nice Hotel in downtown Seattle, part of a global family of Nice Hotels, with amenities and points and everything. It was not some fleabag place out by the airport with hourly rates and plastic lampshades, so the desk clerk had no business leaping to the assumption that I had some fetishistic afternoon activity planned. In any case, the clerk helpfully called the facilities department, and by-and-by a gentleman emerged from the bowels of the hotel with a roll of black electrical tape. I explained that I planned to try to tape the lens to the camera body, and he gave me more than three feet and I scuttled off to my room and commenced wrapping the lens with tape to keep it from falling off the body.

As might be expected, however, my DIY solution did not, in fact, work.

Plan B, then: Panic. With the camera lens, now covered in electrical tape, dangling sadly from the D90 body, I called my partner back in Long Beach and commenced to whine and fret and carry on about my crisis and the unfairness of life and the dark and dismal hopelessness of everything. “Why don’t you go buy a new lens?” he asked sensibly. “Oh.” I said. “Yes, I could do that.”)

(I would say “Long story short” at this point, but given how long this has gone on so far, that’s fairly disingenuous.)

Off I went, then, to the hotel’s concierge, and got directions to a walkably-close camera store. The delightful young man at the store was deeply sympathetic, and more than happy to sell me a replacement lens. First, though, we thoroughly tested the D90 body to make sure it still worked (it did—the little plastic cover over the viewscreen may well have absorbed the impact sufficiently when it popped off to prevent internal damage).

And there’s the thing. The 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, which I loved muchly because of its versatility, turned out to be a “kit lens,” meaning that it was sold with the body and not separately. So it was totally new lens time. He showed me a number of models, none of which made me very happy. I explained that my photographic interests for the new lens would be twofold: Outdoor action/nature photography, and formal portraits. I mentioned the banquet coverage, which mostly would involve taking pictures of people in a dark, cavernous room while they held certificates and statuary and beamed, or spoke movingly from a dais. My long-suffering partner was on the phone for much of this, providing photography insights, emotional support, and permission to spend a large bagful of money.

I ended up with a Nikor 80.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 – not nearly as versatile as the sad old hopelessly broken one, but much, much faster. (Also considerably heavier to carry.)

Nikor 80.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 lens

At the awards banquet, I caused some brow-furrowing among those who noticed that I was standing way, way far away from the little stage where the awardees posed. However, the new lens’ telephoto-like focal length, coupled with a nicely powerful flash unit, had excellent results, as you can see below. I’m including similar photos from last year, taken with the late lamented lens for comparison.

2011 Awards Banquet speaker

This photo was taken in June, 2011 with a Nikor 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and flash attachment

2012 Awards Banquet speaker

This photo of the same Awards Banquet speaker was taken in June 2012 with the new Nikor 80.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 and the same flash attachment

2012 Award winner

This photo was taken in June, 2011 with a Nikor 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and flash attachment

Award winner being presented with medal, June 2012

This photo of an award winner was taken in June 2012 with the new Nikor 80.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 and the same flash attachment, from a much greater distance from the subjects

The headshots also required that I stand on the other side of the room from the subjects, but the results were pretty good:


Head shot taken with the new Nikor 80.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 with no flash.

Once safely back in Southern California, I went out to Huntington Beach one morning to try out the new lens on local surfers. Again, you can compare the results from the 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 (which I thought at the time was pretty darned good) with the new 80.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 (which I think now is quite nice indeed):

Surfer, photographed at a distance and from above, from the Huntington Beach pier with the old Nikor 18.0-105.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens


Surfer photographed from pretty much exactly the same location as left, with the new Nikor 80.0-200.0 mm f/2.8

So I suppose that the moral of this story is that even when disaster strikes, an opportunity often arises; that every cloud has a silver lining; that when a door closes, a window opens; that a glass that’s half empty is also half full; that lemons can be used to make lemonade; yeah whatever. I’m very happy with the new lens, and that’s the important thing. In the end, it seems that what really helps resolve a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad problem is, well, a big bag of money and a convenient camera store.

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