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Diamonds And Dust: 19 – Hazardous Photography

Photgraphing wild life could be a hazardous business, as Malcolm Bertoni reveals.

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We used to chase the small herds of gemsbok to try and take photos of them. It was difficult as we would go careering over the desert in the Land Rovers at about 60-70 kms an hour. I had a Nikon SLR with a telephoto lens and hanging on with one hand, holding the camera with the other and also focusing was almost impossible.

The first time I took the camera out chasing gemsbok, we hit a big washaway. The camera collided with the dash and there was an expensive tinkling sound. The mirror had disintegrated. I’d only had the camera about a month so took it back to the camera store in town and got it replaced under warranty.

I said I don’t know why it broke; there must have been a fault in the manufacturing process. But I didn’t tell them what I was doing at the time, as I’m sure they would not have been quite so sympathetic. The second one lasted a lot longer – another 10 years or so I think.

So trying to take photos while hanging on was dangerous. Once while trying to take a shot and going over a big bump at the same time the camera bashed into my eye, and the result was a bad cut above the eye. Another time the camera ended up with a big dent in the top of the pentaprism when it hit the top of the roof inside the cabin of the Land Rover. I’m surprised it didn’t break, but the camera didn’t seem damaged inside and still worked well.

On my Orange River canoe trip I accidentally dropped the camera in the water and drowned it. So I took the lens off, lay the thing in the sun for a few hours and cleaned the sand and dust out and it worked just fine again. It was a good camera.

Unfortunately the high cost of developing negatives and printing photos meant that I never took enough photos and to this day regret this. I did take a few rolls of slides but lost most of them over the years, and some of them got badly scratched.

Today the digital camera makes taking photos really cheap and much easier.


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