Have you ever done something SO stupid, you wonder why you’re even allowed out of your cage at the zoo?  Let me share my experience, in hopes you’ll never do the same thing I did.

On May 2, I took the scenic route back from Emporia to Topeka by going to Cottonwood Falls and up Highway 177 to Council Grove and on up toward Manhattan.  I made a stop at the waterfall at Chase Co. Fishing Lake, then revisited a pasture area I had been to a couple weeks prior.  There was a really cool cottonwood tree I thought deserved some attention from my camera.

Lone cottonwood stands guard in a Chase Co. pasture

Upon arriving at this spot, I grabbed my tripod and camera which had my Canon 10-22 mm lens attached, leaving the camera bag in the car.  I tend to do this when shooting from roadside ditches, because I’m a bit paranoid about what little critters (such as snakes, spiders or mice) might decide to hitchhike in my unattended bag.  I set up my tripod and my composition, and quickly discovered the wide angle view was just too wide and the tree needed to be bigger in the frame.  I went back to the car and got out my Canon 35-80 lens, returned to my tripod, and swapped the lens out, laying the 10-22 down on the ground next to my tripod.

I finished shooting, got in my car and made my way down the road.  When I got home, I was too exhausted to put my camera bag back in proper order so just took it to the basement to get it out of the way.

A week later when I was getting my gear packed for a trip to Wilson Lake, to my utter horror I couldn’t find my 10-22 lens!  I searched high and low – in the house, in my car, under the seats, in the trunk, through the other boxes and bags I’d had in my car the previous weekend.  It was nowhere to be found.  Trying to remain calm, I retraced my steps.  When was the last time I used the lens?  I remembered the cottonwood tree and was pretty certain that was the last time I had used it, which meant I had left the lens on the ground.  Ouch… Not only was the lens gone, but my B+W circular polarizer was attached to the lens.  Double ouch…!

During the next three weeks, it rained (quite a bit), the wind blew (a LOT), and I couldn’t get away to look for the lens due to aforementioned heavy rains and other commitments.  I worried.  I fretted.  I kicked myself, very hard, many times – and believe me, it’s hard to kick yourself when your head is up your a**. Obviously, that’s where my head was that day.

Finally, on May 23 the weather held out and I was able to return to Chase Co.  As I neared the turnoff to the dirt road, my stomach knotted.  Would the lens still be there?  Or did it wash down the hill into the pasture, to be lost forever?  If I was lucky enough to find it, would it be totally trashed?  Would it/could it still work after being left outside in the windy/dusty/rainy conditions we’d had over the past three weeks?  I got out of the car and walked up to the barbed wire fence toward the spot where I had shot and started looking.  Sure enough, after only about 10 seconds of searching, there was my beloved 10-22 lens, nestled on a rock and next to a clump of grass!!  I literally jumped up and down in excitement.  Here is a photo of the lens, just as I found it:

THERE you are!!

This weekend I thoroughly cleaned it and fired a few test shots.  Everything seemed to work fine.  Monday I went out for a drive in the Flint Hills while my husband biked, and I was able to put it to the test in the field.  It performed brilliantly!

Showy evening primrose blooms in profusion in a Wabaunsee Co. pasture

 All I can say is that I’m amazed the lens still works after being left out in the elements for almost a month.  Although I don’t plan to do something like this again, it’s nice to know it can withstand some abuse.  It also taught me a very valuable lesson about keeping better track of my equipment.  You better believe that when I swapped lenses this time, I made damn sure I left the area with everything I came with – step-down rings, polarizers and especially lenses!

Have a horror story about lost and/or unintentionally abandoned camera gear you’d like to share?  I don’t want to feel like the only idiot out there who has done something so completely foolish, so please share your tales of woe – I’d love to hear about it and commiserate with you!

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