Pushing the limits

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories


Today I let a $920 lens fall to the ground attached to a $5000 camera. I was rigging a shot on a 16 year old girl’s bicycle. The plan was to mount the wide angle lens to the front of her bike, set the camera for a 10 second countdown, send the girl on her way and have the shot taken while she was riding. With any luck, I’d get a nice shot of the girl in focus with the world around her retreating into the blurry distance.

Of course, the first shot wasn’t perfect. The girl’s expression was almost perfect, but the background wasn’t blurred enough. So I turned the bike and the girl around for a second go. And when I turned away I heard a crunch. The girl’s leg had hit the mount causing one of the five clamps to fail, which in turn caused the rest of the clamps to fail sending the six grand worth of glass, magnesium and plastic crashing to the concrete sidewalk. The camera was cosmetically bruised, the magnesium body saving the internals. Strangely, the CF card was safely on the sidewalk like a pilot that had ejecting from its multi-million dollar spy plane, just on a smaller scale. But the 12-24mm lens disassembled itself. The glass looks fine, but the lens falls apart in my hand at the focus ring.

So was this a stupid move? I feel that it’s important to push the boundaries of whatever you do. I’ve yet to do a “rig shot” for any of the publications that I shoot for, and this seemed like a great opportunity to do something alternative in a mostly mainstream-looking magazine. Looking back, I should have used straps in addition to the clamps, but at the time, the rig seemed very secure. So hindsight is 20/20. In this case, I’d rather be boxing up a damaged lens for repair than sitting at my computer kicking myself for not trying.

What do you think?