I risked my life to save a zoom lens at Websters Falls, Ontario

I got a few new lenses for my 20D over the last few weeks. I got a Sigma 28-70mm f2.8 at Henry’s in downtown Toronto for a really good price. Jake also bought me a macro lens and a 50mm f1.8 as a surprise last week. I’ve always liked macro photography, so I was going to give the macro lens a try and return it and the 50mm if I didn’t like it and get a 50mm f1.4.

I set out Saturday morning with my 3 lenses prepared to seek out some of the waterfalls in the Hamilton area. I had one in particular I wanted to see, and I figured I would just wander my way around until I had to head out to the airport to pick up Jake. The first place I visited was by accident. I’ll have to go back and find out what the name of it is. I stopped and took some pics with all 3 lenses…and I found I didn’t like the macro so much. Maybe just because it was cold, and I had no patience, but I was having a lot more fun with the other two. I even got out my Gorillapod and used it! 🙂

I packed up and headed toward Dundas and ended up at Webster’s Falls. I was surprised at how big it was!

Webster’s Falls, Ontario

I started walking down the path and found a small clearing where I could probably get a good shot. I climbed down a bit and reached a tree that was really gnarly (dude) and thought I could get a really cool picture of it with the waterfall in the background using the 50mm. I thought it was a good idea at the time. Turns out it wasn’t.

I sat down next to the tree trunk and took the zoom lens off and put on the 50mm. I had the zoom lens in my hand and I had just put the cap (on the end that goes on the camera) and it slid out of my hand. Down the slope about 7 feet, across the ledge clearing about 2 feet as it slowed down….then hit another trunk and bounced over the ledge. I was yelling, “Please stop! Please stop!” but obviously to no avail. I scrambled down the slope to the ledge and held on to the bleeping tree stump and peered over the side. It was a good 25 foot drop down to the next place I could stand, and from there it sloped about 40 feet to the water at about a 70 degree angle.

My favorite four-letter word started streaming out of my mouth over and over again. I saw a Dasani bottle lying on the ground and I put it on top of the bleeping stump so I could identify it from down below. I felt like doing a CSI trick and bouncing something off the trunk to see where it would land hoping it would tell me where the lens was too.

I walked around the falls, hoping for a way to get down on the side I was on, but that was impossible. The other side was accessible using steps so I went down them, cursing the whole way, looking at my watch because I now had 25 minutes to find my lens before I had to head to the airport. I got down to the other side and surveyed the water for a way across it without getting wet. Did I mention it was snowing by now? Only a little, but it was cold. After about 10 minutes I gave in, there was no way across without walking through the water.

I found the shallowest and shortest distance and waded through the water. OMFG it was COLD. My feet stiffened up right away. Thankfully the water was below the knees. I don’t think I could or would have done it otherwise. I made it to the other side and was patting myself on the back for putting the Dasani bottle on top of the stump on the ledge. There’s no way I would have been able to identify it without that. Wow, it was up really far!!

I climbed up the slope, which was really muddy and slippery. There were a lot of leaves and sticks and I kept sliding down, but I was making progress. I made it up to the top and looked up — I was to the right of the stump. Not bad. It only took me about 5 minutes to find it. I went directly under the stump and looked up. It likely bounced off the stump and hit a big tree and then in a pile of leaves.

And there it was.

Found my lens!

“Thank goodness.” was all I could muster. It was a little dirty, and there was a small scratch on it, but it was otherwise undamaged. (Incidentally, this is the last picture ever taken with my 50mm, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Yay, it doesn’t look broken!

But then I remembered that it might not even work. I propped myself up and switched lenses. This time being very careful not to drop either one. At first, it wasn’t autofocusing, but the drop must have turned on the manual focus. I switched it to Auto and it worked!! Here’s the view from where I was, with the zoom lens.

Yikes, this is scary!

Scary. What the hell am I doing up here? I better get down.

I slid down the slope, which was the only way to get down safely, and waded across the water back to safety. I was now cold, muddy and soaked. I washed my hands off in the water and headed up to the car. It was time to go.

Now, during this whole thing I was shaking and while it may be from the cold, I don’t think so. I was seriously freaked that I just lost my brand new lens, and wading through the water probably didn’t help. I looked back at where I came from. The long tree lying down points up to where the stump is that had the Dasani bottle on it, which you can’t see because it’s so small. Where the rock meeds the leaves (next to the tree in the middle top) is where the lens was, and you can even see where I slid down.

The slope

I certainly got a few odd looks on my way back to the car.

I got back to the car and searched my pockets. Oh no, I didn’t lose my keys did I? No, they’re right here. Whew.

Wait. Oh shit.

I lost my 50mm.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

At this point, I was NOT going to go back and look because I didn’t know where I lost it, and I wasn’t going back through the water again. Thankfully, the 50mm isn’t nearly as expensive as the zoom lens. I’m also very thankful that I didn’t bother to take the macro lens with me on this little excursion — it was going back to the store for a new 50 anyway.

Lesson learned: Don’t change lenses near cliffs. Zip up your frickin’ pockets.