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A Cautionary Tale: How I Dropped My Camera and Tripod Off a Cliff

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Just because you think it can’t possibly happen to you, doesn’t mean it won’t happen anyway.

I live in Nova Scotia, Canada at a particular spot where the tides are the highest in the world. I just recently started to get into photography and fell in love with taking time lapses, so I’ve been scouting this place (Blomidon, Nova Scotia) for a while where I wanted to do a time lapse of the ocean tides.

Finally, the time and conditions were right. There was no moon, meaning the ocean tides would be at their highest fluctuations. On this particular day, the tides would rise and fall over 14 meters (45 feet) twice in a single day—115 billion tonnes of water would be flowing in and out over a 12.4 hour period.

I reached the location I’d scouted a few weeks before, a nice empty field with no trees nearby to distract from the time lapse and a beautiful view of the famous Blomidon cliff side that draws people to this place.

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It was a perfect day to do a time lapse. The tides were right and there were clouds in the sky to give nice visuals, but it wasn’t too bright out. At this place the cliffs aren’t too high, just about 45 feet, but they overlook the ocean and it is a gorgeous spot. It was a bit cold out, around 6 degrees Celsius (42.8 degrees Fahrenheit) and windy as well.

So I get out of my car and get out my gear: a camera with ultra wide lens, heavy weighted tripod, and a book to read. I walk across the grassy field and along the cliff edge to find a good spot to set up my, again, weighted tripod.

I find the perfect place and go to set everything up, and that’s when I realize I forgot one thing. One teeny tiny thing I managed to forget at home. My quick release plate to attach my camera to my tripod.

“No problem” I think to myself, I have my other, lighter weight tripod I use for hiking in my trunk. I’ll just use that.

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Once I finally set everything up I go to my car to keep out of the cold wind, leaving my Canon T2i, vertical grip with a built in intervalometer, and Sigma 10-20mm set up and shooting on a Manfrotto Art 190B tripod outside. This is a very wide lens, so to be able to get the camera to look off the cliff without having the ground in the frame I have to bring the camera and tripod close to the edge. Not a big deal.

At first, everything is going well. Every 45 minutes or so I go outside and check to see that everything is working right, basically just making sure the camera is good for battery life and still taking photos. And for the first two hours my camera was fine.

Then, suddenly, I look up from my book to see… nothing. There’s nothing there. My camera is gone. I get out of my car and run across the field. Again, nothing.

Nothing was there. I tried to look off of the cliff but couldn’t get close enough to the edge to see anything… and I didn’t want to go the way of my camera.

Heart pumping and feeling a mix of anger, stupidity, and denial, I ran back across the field to my car and drove down the beach searching for the wreckage. After going down the beach for about 15 minutes, there it was.

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There was my camera broken off the vertical grip, which was still attached to the tripod. The body and lens are still together but broken at the mount, stuck together. The camera battery was 10 feet in the opposite direction, and my tripod with two broken legs is now a monopod.

I was devastated.

I felt so stupid for having my tripod so close to the cliff. You don’t think it’s going to happen, and if stuff like this does happen it definitely won’t happen to you right? But as I learned, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Be prepared for the worse. Always be careful while taking photos in risky situations, or you may find your tripod and camera smashed to bits at the bottom of a cliff.


About the author: Mitchell Millett is an aspiring photographer with a passion for time lapse and wildlife photography. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, Mitchell is driven to capture the beauty found in his home province through his camera.

You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This story was also posted here.

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