“Whoa!!!” I yelled when I lost traction in my wet, rubber boots. Splat!!! I was lying, facedown, in Amazonian mud. I can laugh now, but I sure wasn’t laughing then. It was 8 a.m. We had just started our journey to spot giant river otters at Oxbow Lake.
I pulled myself upright. I was covered from head to toe in brown, sloppy mud. This was not the look I was going for. I was OK, but I couldn’t say the same for my new camera. It was practically encased in the dirt. Perfect…
Thank goodness for Luis, our jungle guide. He took my equipment, wrapped it in a towel and put it in his backpack. We continued on our hike to the lake. Once on the boat, Luis wiped most of the grime off of my camera.
“You were lucky, Grace! The lens cap stayed on. Also, the body of the camera seems OK.” The zoom control was a different story. It was a mess. I sat there looking at my suddenly-not-so-brand-new-looking Nikon camera. I was filthy and worried. I put the camera away. It began to rain–and we didn’t see any giant river otters.
When we got back to the lodge I went straight to Bruce Dale, one of the
professional photographers on the trip with us. He looked at me like I
had just been on a game show where you have to survive in the jungle
for a week. As I got closer, he saw the state of my camera and put the
pieces together lickety-split. I told him my story and asked for his
help. He took my camera and began to wipe it off. He ripped a thin
piece of cardboard from a nearby box and gently put it in between the
different moving parts. Each time he pulled it out it was covered in
mud. He did this over and over.
“Why don’t you go clean up? I’ll continue to work on this,” he said. I did, then returned.
“Everything seems OK with the camera except for the zoom mechanism,” he
said. “Listen.” He put the lens to my ear and slowly turned it. Crunch.
Scrape. Even though this was the first “real” camera I’ve ever had, I
knew this noise was not good.
“You need to keep cleaning out the moving parts. The camera is OK to
use, but get in touch with Nikon when you get back to the States. See
what they recommend.”
I followed his cleaning advice and I used it for the last few days of
the trip. Happily, I have fantastic pictures from our entire Peruvian
I developed a love for photography in Peru. We all were so lucky to
learn from, and be inspired by, Bruce Dale and Amy Toensing, two
amazing National Geographic photographers. Now that I’m home, I’m sad
to say the zoom is still is making the crunchy noise. Nikon, I will be
contacting you soon…