Using a Camera to Find a Camera
I set out for my Saturday long run a little before 7 AM thinking I would get about 20 miles for the day. Since I was planning on going up Waterton Canyon, I brought the big camera along thinking there might be some bighorn photo opportunities. I got home 3.5 hours later after only covering 10 miles and never making it up the canyon…
I wanted a little extra mileage, so I decided to do an out-and-back through Chatfield before heading up the canyon. As I got to my turnaround spot near the corrals, I heard a burst of coyote howls in the distance. I veered off the trail and headed cross-country to where the sound had come from.
Once I spotted the coyote, I quickly shed my pack and started assembling my DSLR (I carry the body and lens separated because it rides better that way). I got a few shots, then tracked it and another one from a distance as they moved south through the park. This went on for 30-45 minutes and I covered about a half mile in the process. I was having a great time observing and taking pictures, thoughts of my run were far removed from my mind.
Once they got far enough away that photos were no longer possible, I packed up the camera and got ready to switch back into run mode. That was when I realized that my compact camera (Canon Elph) was missing from the pack pocket where I keep it. The pocket is on the shoulder strap and is great for easy access, but doesn’t hold the camera very securely.
I stared back at the vast expanse of ground I had covered and thought; crap.
Since I had been so focused on the coyotes, I hadn’t paid very good attention to the meandering path I had taken to get where I now was. I cursed under my breath as I started back the way I had came, staring at the ground looking wishfully for the needle in the haystack. The camera isn’t anything all that special and could be replaced fairly easily, but there were photos on it that I hadn’t offloaded and I was just generally ticked off at myself for losing it.
As the initial wave of anger passed, some more rational thinking started to filter into my head. I realized there had to be about a 90%+ chance that it had fallen out when I first shed my pack to get my big camera out. But where in the world was that?!?
I walked back to the area where I was pretty sure it had to be and spent a good 30-40 minutes walking back and forth, looking for a dull black object the size of a deck of cards laying somewhere in the weeds. I decided that if I ever found it, I was going to tie a 3 foot length of pink flagging to it…
Frustrated that it didn’t just magically appear at my feet, I finally had the thought to start looking through the pictures I had taken to see if there were any clues. Some of the later ones helped me rule certain areas out and be more confident in my direction, but there weren’t any earth-shattering discoveries. I stared at the first photo I had taken and tried to match the background with what I was seeing before me.
I zoomed in and around on the display, hoping to find some distinct characteristic I could latch on to. It was mostly a patchwork of bare branches with little to differentiate it from all the other patchworks of bare branches in the distance.
I could sort of make out the arc of a larger limb in the background, and that became my target. I searched until I found what I thought was the right tree, then a stroke of genius came out of somewhere as I had the thought to start taking new photos from my current location to see if that helped me dial in the correct spot. It took about a dozen tries, with lots of flipping back and forth between shots on the camera display, but I finally ended up with what looked like a really good match. Then I moved forward and backward, keeping the composition as close as I could to the original photo and got the distance just about right.
I dropped my pack, and even set a waypoint on my GPS running watch for future use if I ended up having to come back later. I started walking away from my pack in the pattern of an expanding spiral, finding the camera nestled in a clump of grass less than a minute later – about 12 feet from where I had taken the final photo from.
This shot was taken from where I found the camera, the starting point of my spiral was just beyond my shadow.
I was happy with that outcome!
Cold and drained from the search, and short on time, I slowly made my way back home.