Thursday, March 07, 2013

This will make you cringe!

... if you're a photographer, that is.

Here's the story of the elk and the camera, direct from Dr. Ron who gave me permission to post it here.

On my recent trip to Yellowstone 2 elk were fighting. I ran over with my camera around my neck leaving the other body and the 600mm lens on the tripod beside the river where I was shooting another Elk in the river just moments before.

The Bull elk that lost the fight was forced onto the road. He saw me,  and I saw him….

He charged me and I ran up the hill hiding behind a tree.  (not very brave but I am still here in one piece) That is when he spotted the tripod with the Nikon D3s and the 600 mounted to it.

He went over to investigate….
I yelled at him…he charged me again…still not brave I chose the same tree! 
BTW My heart works very well, I could feel it beating out of my chest!

 An angry elk looks into the camera (for a sense of scale, that 600 mm lens is more than half a meter long - ed.)

The 12 point bull (6 per side) standing about 6 feet at the shoulder (the height of my extended tripod) ,  returned to the tripod. Stuck his nose into the end of the lens….I held my breath….hoping he would get disinterested and walk away. He stood there for a moment looking at the gear deciding what to do.

He charges the camera antlers first 

No such luck, he was frustrated and looking to take it out on something. He lowered his head and charged. As his antlers pushed the tripod over, it slid down his antlers making a scraping noise, then the camera strap got caught in his antlers and that really freaked him out. After it finally hit the ground he began kicking the camera and lens now scattered in several pieces into oblivion. I must not be a good photojournalist because I was too shocked to take any pictures of that…..

He kicks the camera for good measure 

Some other photographers saw what was happening and jumped into their car, drove towards the elk honking and screaming and he just looked at them indignantly….almost daring them to come closer, took a step towards the car in a mock charge daring them to come closer….he finally turned, gave one last kick to the downed lens almost to say F. You and trotted off down the slope towards the river.

When I retrieved the gear, the body was useless, the inside mounting ring was bent and the outer housing cracked. The lens had a very serious and gut wrenching crunching noise when you attempted to turn the focusing ring, the 1/8 of a turn it had left in it…kind of like a final gasp before slipping into a coma!

The good news is that both are repairable, a testament to the ruggedness of Nikon.  I do however have a new tripod on order. I tried to find one that is elk proof. No such luck.

I have a new found healthy respect for Elk, Moose and Bison….they look fluffy but they pack a punch.

Gotta love Nature photography….not for the feint (sic) of heart!

Followup: good news!

I spoke with Nikon service today. The service department is very familiar with the story, the tech I spoke to knew exactly what I was talking about! We agreed that the fact that the camera and lens are repairable is a testament to the ruggedness of the Nikon product. Obviously there's a price tag attached, but it's MUCH less than a new lens and body!

Ron, they told me your camera and lens will be ready for pickup in 5 working days!

The bad news is, that means Dr. Ron can't justify buying that new 800mm f/4 that Nikon just announced!

Another (non-related) piece of good news: my D600 is ready for pickup, I'll be at Nikon tomorrow morning! In uncharacteristic fashion, Nikon told me, "the technician found it necessary to replace the shutter mechanism, in addition to cleaning the sensor filter". Hmmm...


  1. Followup: it turns out the lens was not repairable. Insurance coughed up enough for a replacement. Ron still has the D3S as far as I know, and a sweet D4!