The Tale of the Tripod
Back in early May I had volunteered to be a workshop assistant for the Landscape Photography workshop during the Palm Springs Photo Fest. The PSPF is one of our nation’s TOP photography networking and learning events.
In its own words “The Palm Springs Photo Festival offers professional, emerging professional and serious advanced amateur photographers the opportunity to study with legendary photographers, show portfolios in our celebrated portfolio review program, check out the latest gear, attend cutting-edge seminars, symposiums, networking events and enjoy evening presentations by world famous image-makers. The inevitable relationships that are made or renewed at PSPF can oftentimes be transformative.”
It was certainly all of that! - and so much more!
One of my primary responsibilities as a workshop assistant was to help out the landscape photography instructor with the landscape workshop. Before I departed Las Vegas for Palm Springs I had reached out to the workshop instructor whom I’d be assisting and he made a request of me to go scout the Anza Borrego desert for him, as he’d never been there before.
Well, I’d never been there before either! Hence the necessity of the scout.
I’d known about it, though
It’s a haven for night photographers because it is one dark place at night time. AND it has all these super crazy cool sculptures that are larger than life - or just life size - all over the desert.
So upon driving up to one of the first sculptures I was to scout I noticed, sitting in the dirt all by itself, this little tripod. No one was anywhere near it. And it is a nice tripod, too! A Gitzo traveler with an Acratech ball head on top of it. The travel-size carbon fiber tripod alone goes for about $800 and the head is worth over $300! ZOIKS!!!
I knew this was something somebody was missing!
At first, I was like “Score!!!” - because I’m going to Italy in September and I need a small, lightweight travel tripod for my time there. But then I saw it in my mind’s eye…
I knew exactly what had happened
I knew that someone had been out here the evening prior shooting these incredible sculptures and the galaxy. They were shooting silhouettes or doing some light painting, light drawing or… something night photography.
These big sculptures are just out in the park - look at the photo above. There’s tire tracks all over the place. You can drive right up to them. You could even park in between them and get shots of your car if that’s your thing.
Someone had been packing up their gear after a long night of photography and had put the tripod down to arrange something in their car with the intention of putting the tripod in last and got distracted and ended up walking away from it, shutting all the doors to their car and drove off.
It’s totally forgivable. I mean, we’re diurnal animals by nature. I work night shift in my 9-5 job on occasion and it is hard. It’s hard on your body, it’s hard on your mind. You can’t help when the fatigue sets in after you’ve been up all night.
The person that left this very valuable tripod out in the middle of the desert wasn’t forgetful. They were exhausted!
So I picked the tripod up and threw it in my truck alongside the rest of my camera equipment. I had to finish scouting and then head to Palm Springs for the festival opening. I decided on the drive back that I would use this tripod all week and carry it around on my backpack so that if the person who lost it was attending (very possible) might see it and lay claim to it.
The festival came to a close with no one except my group of landscape photographers trying to lay claim to the tripod - I seriously can’t count how many times I heard jokes from them about how they’d lost this thing out in the desert.
So… strike one.
I decided on my drive home that I would reach out to the Acratech Photographers Group page on Facebook. I’m an acratech owner for one of my tripods already and since this person had one perhaps they were also part of the group.
Hey, it was worth a shot. I wanted to get this tripod back to its owner, if I could!
So I made a post about finding this ball head and if the owner could describe what kind of tripod it was on and where it was I would be happy to return it.
No one replied. Strike two.
Then Patty, the number one main Acratech lady boss in charge, reached out to me and asked what the serial number was.
That had never occurred to me!
And… Bonus!, it was readable. I gave her the number and sort of kept my fingers crossed that this person hadn’t registered it. Alas, Patty was able to locate them and they described where they had left it confirming that it was, indeed, their tripod!
Bittersweet joy! The rightful owner was found!
Turns out the tripod belonged to a really good (and famous) photographer Lance Keimig. He’s been teaching night sky photography for over 20 years and explained that he’d been out there that night teaching a night photographer workshop.
He was pretty stoked to learn that I had picked up his tripod from the dirt and had been “desperately” trying to find its owner. :-)
A few days after returning his baby to him… this showed up in my mailbox!
He sent me his book!
And he even signed it! What a guy, right?!?!
So even though I’m still on the hunt for a travel tripod for my upcoming Italy trip I am pleased that the tripod found the right owner. Which, I guess, is another way of saying that I’m also glad the right person found the tripod. (me)
It feels good to do the right thing.
There’s no big moral or lesson here. But I wanted to share the experience with you because it’s not very often that something like this happens and brings two photographers together. And… I’d like to think that our photography world is a better place because of it.
You can read Lance’s version of this tale on his blog by clicking here.