Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Watch Your Step: A Cautionary Tale (And Why I'm A Canon Fan)...

Up until recently, I always said I was a Canon user because, well, because I'd always shot with a Canon camera.

I got a new reason last Wednesday.

I'm a recent transplant to Portland, Oregon. Prior to moving here, I lived just east of San Diego. Ergo, I'm not exactly used to the weather which is common in Oregon and, accordingly, I have some things to learn about how to deal with it.

On Wednesday, I decided to venture out to Silver Falls State Park. It has ten waterfalls in total, and I'd hoped to photograph four or five of them. I left the house early and, when I got to the first falls (the North Falls), it was about 30 degrees. I didn't venture to the down to the falls, though, and elected to shoot them from a viewpoint along the road:

The Upper North Falls in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon...

From there, I drove down to a parking area for the South Falls. To get to the Upper South Falls was all of about a five minute hike down a dirt and partially paved trail. To get to the base of the falls would be about a 15 minute hike down some switchbacks along the trail.

The thing about waterfalls and winter is that the spray ices over on just about everything it touches. Maybe I'd just been living in sunny SoCal for too long, but this is something I neglected to offer even a passing thought. I had my Lowepro over my right shoulder, my 5D & 24-70 f/2.8L on my Slik tripod on my left, and I was on my way. I was watching my footing, and consciously made the decision to avoid walking where there was water running down the path; some idiotic thing about getting my new Vasque hiking shoes wet and dirty.

Of course, the thing I should've considered is that the water was running in these places because it wasn't frozen. Because it wasn't frozen, it offered a secure (or relatively so) foothold. The areas where the water wasn't running were, in fact, frozen and, as I would soon learn, offered nothing that even approached being a secure foothold.

I remember the feeling as my feet came out from under me. That happened almost immediately after I started sliding towards a low railing. "Oh", I thought, "This is going to suck". There was no way I was going to avoid going over the railing. Somehow, though, I did manage to avoid it. I'm happy to report that I didn't go over the railing.

I did, however, go under it.

I went under it and commenced a fall, down a steep embankment, of about 25 feet. I pinballed my way down the embankment until I stopped just above the path that, on a nice sunny day, I likely would've just walked to. This time, I just took a short cut. I hurt. A lot. Nothing was broken, but I knew I bruised some things internally; ribs and maybe a kidney. My left leg, clad only in denim, was soaked, as were my gloves. All I could think about on the way down was how I was going to be on the news in two or three days after they'd found my lifeless body on the trail. Okay, that's a bit dramatic; it's a popular place even in winter, but I remember believing that I would probably end up being carried out.

As it was, though, I was able to pick myself up and brush myself off. I was wet but, oddly, not really cold. I looked over, about ten feet or so from where I stopped tumbling, and saw my camera laying in the brush. It was still connected to the tripod. I don't recall ever letting go of it but, clearly, I had. I don't recall watching it careen down the embankment but, clearly, it did. I walked over and picked it up, absolutely certain that it was going to be useless. At the very least, I figured, the lens would be destroyed.

I picked it up, and brushed dirt and grime and brush off of the camera. The lens looked fine. There was some mud on the lens hood, but that was it. I turned the camera on and ran it through every mode it has. I encountered exactly zero issues. The camera and lens, aside from being dirty and a little wet, worked perfectly. I was amazed. I have to figure that, because it was on my shoulder, the camera hit the ground with the same amount of force that I did. That, alone, should've ruined it. But my 5D wasn't content with that. The 5D wanted to go along for the whole ride.

So, there's my tale of (almost) woe. I was real lucky. Not only was I lucky because my gear ran the gauntlet and survived, but also because I, too, walked away when it could've been a lot worse for me. I can't say whether or not a camera from another manufacturer would've survived the same, and I'm not suggesting it wouldn't. What I'm saying is that the 5D was subjected to more in that fleeting five or six seconds than it should've been over the entire course of its useful life, and it came through with flying colors. That is why I'm a Canon devotee.

Oh, and here's a shot of the falls I took after the fall:

A "post fall" photo of the Upper Southern Falls...


  1. Livin' on the edge, dude. So glad you and yer gear are OK!!

  2. Okay, so you're learning not to be a knucklehead. Now stop ignoring me when I tell you that Jefferson Park, the Metolius River, Horsetail Fall up the Columbia Gorge and Rooster Rock State Park should be on your agenda for the near future. I'll give you a break on Jefferson Park and the Metolius until spring.

  3. Damn. Hope you're feeling better.

  4. Thanks, guys. Yeah, I consider myself fortunate. Halfway down, I came to accept that I would be getting carried out. Thankfully, that's not what happened. And, Big T? Yeah, I'll be hitting all of those places in time, and appreciate the tips!

  5. It's the 2nd lowest form of comedy (just above the nut shot), but there's just something inherently funny about a guy slipping on the ice. ;)

    Glad you made it out safely, bud.


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