Murphy’s Law and you: A Boy Scouts Guide to Travel Photography
For the uninitiated Murphy’s law states that “whatever can go wrong will go wrong” I have found this law to be an inexplicable constant in my life, a guiding light of truth even, since becoming a parent.
Many years ago when I was trying to make a living as a photographer Murphy’s Law dictated that I always had a backup camera body. I never once needed it under those professional circumstances. Well, I never needed it due to a mechanical failure anyway; my personal failings (or those of my employees) had required a backup on a couple of occasions. Think dropping it into a river or some other idiocy. Regardless, the point here is I never really needed the backup camera as I had one and my partner in crime had one as well. My admittedly short memory forced a few of those “destructive incidents to the back of my mind until recently” so really I was running on the lack of mechanical failures which led me to believe that everything would be OK. Thus, in my more recent travels I have been adhering to my policy of traveling light. My travel photography bag has had a small camera, a single lens, and some spare batteries. This was flying in the face of both Murphys law and my Boy Scout training.
As anyone will tell you life has a way of weeding out the weak and inexperienced and stupidity backfired on me a couple of weeks ago in South East Asia. I brought with me only my trusty Rx1rii, which has been a great travel companion despite it not being my preferred focal length. We had gone to the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur the day before and Manila the day prior to that so I had quite a few photos on the ol’ SD card. Naturally, I didn’t back up the card. Nor did I switch the card out. This of course is where Murphy’s Law reared its ugly head. My trusty Rx1rii decided that, yes, this was the time to cease functioning. Many thousands of miles from where I could do anything about it or have a backup is always the best time. I switched it on right before a tour and got a nice welcoming e61:00 error coupled with no auto-focus whatsoever. I grabbed the manual focus ring and guess what, no manual focus either. I was the proud owner of a Sony brick.
A warm nauseous sensation began in stomach and then overwhelmed my already hung-over body as panic set in. Fortunately my friend is a professional alcoholic so he shrugged off the hangover and upon seeing the look on my face promptly Googled the Sony e61:00 error. While I was fumbling with the camera doing the basic resets and battery removal he was pulling up a fix. The fix by the way to an e61:00 error in a Sony camera is to bang it into a solid surface while it is booting. No I’m not kidding. I was just barely desperate enough to bang an extremely fragile, half glass, $3,500 dollar investment into a 2 ton piece of marble, in the lobby of a hotel, in South East Asia. Three or four good whacks while it was booting and 10-12 strange looks from passers by was it took to get the camera functioning again. Unfortunately, it also corrupted the database. Way to go me, I guess I should have practiced what I preach and backed that sucker up.
Pro TiP: if you’re going to attempt this “fix”, remove the SD card first.
I had been thinking over my conclusion here for a couple weeks and while my initial response was “why didn’t I have a backup camera?! I should definitely recommend a backup camera.” my secondary response was “I have an IPhone and so does everyone else”. My long-standing addiction love affair with the IPhone mandates that it’s attached to me at all times. It’s become a bit of a vital organ. Experience tells me that most people are similar in this regard and quite frankly, the iPhone is all the camera most people need anyway. For proof of this, see the sales of point and shoot cameras since 2007 or so. The IPhone takes one hell of a photo for what it is and probably would have been a fine backup camera if it came down to it. In fact, it was, I ended up using it quite a bit along side the RX1Rii out of fear. I wasn’t prepared to commit to the Rx1rii anymore given its previous indiscretion. And while the photographer in me is screaming at me to recommend a backup camera the practical dad in me is muffling that self righteous prick with a pillow and I’m going to recommend that you travel light and keep your smartphone as a backup camera.
So in short, my boy scout training was right “Always be prepared” but do so in the simplest way possible.