Category Archives: Guest Column

Lost Camera – the rest of the story

I would like to sincerely Thank all of the people who viewed the post about the lost camera. I would like to especially acknowledge Thomas Hawk for re-posting on Google+.   I have located the owner after about 4 hours of intense emailing, googling and fact checking.  The short story is my own search and the work of folks on the internet  converged to the same point at about the same time, let me tell you how we got there.

After pulling the camera out of the mud and briefly looking it over, I pried the battery door open and found a pristine battery and memory card compartment. After arriving home late on Sunday,  Posted on Facebook that I had found a camera and was downloading the photos. I dragged a photo to stolencamerafinder.com but no luck.  It was late so I went to bed.  Monday during the day I got slammed a work.  Monday night, I looked a little bit but nothing popped out.

Tuesday night,  I got my first chance to take a good look at the photos.  There were about >1000 files on the camera. The first place I started was the EXIF data which told me a few things about the camera and the date the photos were taken. But no owner, no geo tags, just a few fragments I surmised from the photos that the first photo was number in the 200’s and dated 5/8 the last was dated 7/22/2011. This told me the camera was new and the day it was lost was likely on 7/22/2011 on a rafting trip on the Merced River with All Outdoors.  I called the rafting company All Outdoors  no luck, not open, I wanted to talk to a person not surf through the computer menu. I thought I would call back in the morning.   I watched and re-watched all of the videos on the camera.  Nothing. No names, no places, nothing. I was starting to make up audio; convincing myself people were talking and making stuff up.  Like when you play a record backwards.  After a few hours of watching the rafting videos I was getting motion sickness and hearing things so decided I was not getting anywhere.

Wednesday, I got slammed at work AGAIN and never ended up calling All Outdoors.  Wednesday night I focused on the photos and collected the data off of all the buildings numbers names, places and attaching them to the photo.  I took some notes.  The camera had 2 months of photos all from California. This suggested that the owner was likely from California.  The photos were from mostly Southern California so that narrowed the region.  I looked up some info on the Palm Springs Film Fest but I didn’t find any photos that looked like anyone in the photos.  What troubled me was something I know too often: the owner of the camera is usually behind the camera not in front of it. So I was assuming most of the photos might no have photos of the owner.  The reoccurring people maybe the ticket and if I could find one of them they might be able to lead me to the owner.  Especially, the group shots you usually pose in groups right?! Judging from the videos and photos I think I nailed the owner.  I was pretty exhausted.  I was concentrating hard on the photos looking for names on tables, or an address on a scrap of paper.  The little hints but nothing solid.  This was WAY too slow.  I collected the data, tagged the photos.  Tomorrow, I decided I was asking the internet.

Thursday,  I uploaded many of the photos to my Flickr account and Google + and wrote a short explanation on the Star Circle Academy Blog.  I published them all at the same time.  I asked some of my CA Flickr contacts for help.  I was running late for work and had a lot to do, I figured I could finish at work. I called All Outdoors still the computer menu…Grrrr, well they officially open in a few minutes. I might be able to reach them or it could be off season and no one is answering the phones.  I went to work, started with some Google+ contacts then began my workday.

I was not really prepared for what happened next.  In the brief time between me leaving for work and making a cup of coffee, Thomas Hawk moved my plea for help from Flickr to Google+.  Lets just say it exploded people were sharing it, +1-ing it via comments and  emails.  I shifted from reading comments, to emailing people to fact checking, there was a lot of encouragement, and tons of good info, lots of you should do “this” (and the “this” was redundant).  Between some of the comments I tried the Malibu Surf Shop,  after a short explanation all I got was they didn’t really keep computerized records.  Grrr…that was a dead end.

Just when it was getting really interesting I had to leave, you know “work” meeting.

While I was working the internet crew had been examining the photo that contained a badge that read ShortFest in Palm Springs.  They posted a link to some of the photos of attendees one of which looked a lot like the person I thought was the owner.   It was good but who was she??

Before lunch, I took a short break and tried All Outdoors  rafting company again. I got a person!!  A real person! I was a little surprised.

Hello Can, I help you?

Ah?  I sure hope so.

I think I surprised her with my surprise and excitement!  I explained the story to Diane.  She seemed a little stunned, one that a camera survived, and two I was contacting them.  She asked, How do you know it is us?  I replied. “Well, it is written all over your boat, the paddles, your life vests”.  I also mentioned that the date of the trip was 7/22/2011.  She quickly pulled up the date and said “That’s great we only had one trip the day.  And we have all the email addresses of the participants.”  I gave her my contact info and passed on.  A solid lead finally!!

While I left for lunch an email from All Outdoors  to all of the attendee from the day the camera was lost  For the next 45 minutes things churned in cyberspace.

The near miss, an email from a person in the boat:

I received your email, but the camera is not mine.  Someone on my raft did lose a camera, but I can’t remember the lady’s name.  I hope that you are able to track down the couple and that they get their camera back.
I know they were disappointed when it fell off her life jacket as she was being pulled back in the raft.

About an hour later I had an email, a very excited one indeed!!   In her own words (edit to protect privacy):

Eric, 
This is the most amazing email I have ever gotten! My underwater camera was my most favorite things and I was so upset when I lost it and all the pictures of our trip. Thank you so, so much for going to these lengths to find me! It is a total miracle that it worked, and how amazing of you to do such detective work!
 

Googleing, the recipient everything started to check out but I still had my doubts. Started to assemble the questions to verify it was her camera.  Things I could ask about the photos that only she would know. However, this was unnecessary, I got confirmation from Google +,  Craig Richmond had cross referenced the owner through the Shortfest Photo and surfed around until he confirmed with a separate photo which was connected to her name.  He got the same result as I did and helped me confirm from that, we came to the same conclusion.  My response was “Bingo”.  If he would have been about 40 minutes Earlier I would have been emailing the owner not her emailing me.

During some correspondence over email, she also confirmed some other details that made me confident the camera was hers.  That was it, it was an interesting ride and fun to be involved in the search.  All Outdoors really came through in the end and I am so happy that they do not close for the season and someone answered the phone.  Thank you, Craig Richmond who also helped me confirm which was a large part of fact checking.  And a very large Thank you to Thomas Hawk because this story would have never got off the ground without his response.

That is the end of the story.  I am heading to the post office today and will put the camera and SD card in the mail.  I am going to end with her own words (edited for privacy):

“Wow, the whole thing is so crazy I can hardly believe it! Amazing work. Wow. I am just so, so grateful that you went to all the trouble, it is so lovely. Eric, I feel like you know so much about me –  Where do you live? where do you work? what can I do to repay your kindness?……..Also would it be OK if we took most of the pics down and just left up the one below for the sake of posterity? only because I am slightly mortified to have me and my family’s analog life on public view – probably why it was so unnecessarily hard to find me! I don’t really use any of these technologies. I hope that is not ungrateful – because I am so thankful to you for all the trouble you went to! It is just such an act of generosity, you’ll have to let me write you up something for the end of the story about how thankful I am to everyone who helped with the detective work!
 Thank you again so much, and please tell me if you are coming down so we can have you to dinner – I think we’re destined to be friends now, right?”
 

Yes I  do believe we are destined to be friends. 🙂
PS.  Since the owner has asked me to remove her photos I will be responding to her request….I would also ask that you please do the same.  This is also why I have decided to identify her as just the owner to also protect her privacy.   I would not want to ruin a new friendship now would I?     She has allowed me to keep one photo up for the sake of posterity (but I am going to ask for a second I love this one).   Thank you.  The end.

Lost Camera

Ok, a little diversion for a moment here, a little bit a background then the real story, then a story I hope you will help me write. If you were looking for something on Night Photography, Sorry not this time.  I am hijacking Steven’s blog at the moment. Thanks Steven,  Eric 🙂

Last Sunday I was scouting locations south of Yosemite National Park along 140 and the Merced River.  If you know anything about the type of person I am I love back-roads, the places other casual photographers don’t go.  I spotted some interesting places to return to along opposite side the Merced River and conveniently enough I found a State Park Ranger, a back-road and a trail map.  I was set.  Off we go to explore driving along the Merced River was a treat.  With a recess from both the typical winter and the mega rain we had last year I was itching to get down to the river.  After a few miles of gravel there was a long parking area, and easy access to the shore.  Ambling down the to riverside you could see the river was low, rocks that were normal not exposed were.  Fishing line, bottles, cans and other detritus was stuck in the bushes and round river rocks.  However one thing caught my eye, IT was a camera!!  I kinda did a double take but yes, yes it was a camera.  What, a mess! It was caked with muck and clods of dirt hung to it.  There was water between the screen and the casing, the lens was fogged with dirt. No matter the dirt and slime this was a waterproof camera, a Canon PowerShot D10.  But how?? Why??  I quickly realized that this was a major river rafting spot and this might have gotten lost on one of those boating trips.  Scraping away the dirt from the doors, I cracked open the battery compartment and it was pristine!  I was excited.  The battery was dead, but clean, the SD card was clean and dry.  7 hours later, a trip to the hospital, and 5 stitches, a black eye and a CT scan later (My Girlfriend slipped on a rock and ended up in a waterfall, yes in, but that is another story), I questioned whether I should download the photos.  Well the owner will never get there camera back if I don’t, and the memories they might have stored on this would be worth it.  So after combing through the  >1000 photos and videos, I could not identify any information that would give me a solid lead on the owner.  I have bits and clips of them I have figured out who I believe is the owner, and their family but no solid names.  I believe they are from CA but not sure.  They love the water almost all the shots from the camera are in or around the water.  That is it I don’t have else much to go on. So now I am turning to the internet community and asking for help, do you know these people can you help me find them.

Please, help me write the rest of this story.   As a photographer I know how much it would mean to me to lose my camera but to lose the memories it contained is harder.  The following is some of the photos that I believe will be the most helpful.  I have spared you the ~200 underwater self portraits (I published the fun underwater portraits) and others that are uninformative (like the sky).   I have tried to preserve all of the meta data but there was not much there anyway.   If you recognize anything please leave a comment, if you know people in the photos please send them the link, please share this with your photographer friends.   And Please don’t bother “All Outdoors”, the rafting company too much.

Other Data:

Photo dates 5/8 to 7/22/2011  Merced River CA to

Photo locations are from Merced, Malibu, to Palm Springs.

Map of where I found the camera

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=202312884837720874010.0004b846567e4b7d77a63&msa=0&ll=37.60002,-119.976454&spn=0.04495,0.093641

Out Darn Gaps!

In this installment of our BLOG, I present to you Mozzer502 (as he calls himself on Flickr).  His real name is not often used in polite company, unless of course you know him in which case you’d probably call him “Andy”.  I met Andy recently at a Star Circle Academy Workshop. He’s a hoot which is American slang for “wickedly clever” not to mention that he’s all around a fun guy who loves slinging burning steel into the ether. See his photostream to see what I mean.

I asked Andy to write up his uber cool trick for eliminating gaps in Star Trails.  Here is his work, slightly edited. Andy’s clever trick applies to star trails that are circular (i.e. revolve around the north or south celestial pole).

Dotty Problem

Now that all good discerning photographers stack their long exposure star photos, I’m sure you’ve noticed your dotty problem. I may have a solution for you for that. Take a look at these two photos. The one of the left is the original after stacking, the one on the right is the nice smooth one after processing.

Is processing a photo wrong? I won’t even bother answering that. If you think so, move along. If you want to know how to make your pictures a little less Morse Code and a little more creamy silk, read on.

We’re going to use a little used Photoshop filter called the Radial Blur. If we do this right, we’ll blur the stars just enough to fill the gaps that appeared while your camera was processing. Of course this is only going to work if we have a radial star pattern with a center we can pin.

Adobe neglected to provide a way to accurately point the radial center, so you have two options to make it work. You can start the filter and click randomly until you get it right, or you can follow this convoluted process.

Load your circular star picture. We need to make the polar star the center of the image. To do that make your window big enough to play with, select the crop tool, set the width, height and resolution to blank, and draw a crop frame. You’re trying to make a crop that has the little X in the center, right over the North Star [Editor’s note: Polaris is close enough for guv’ment work – but the actual center of rotation lies away from Polaris toward the next nearest star in the Little Dipper]. It doesn’t matter how big you enlarge your photo.

We only want to blur the stars, so the next step is to switch off all the foreground in your image. I use a combination of the magic wand, the quick selection tool, and the magnetic lasso to select the foreground and to mask it out.