August 10, 2006 | Weehawken/Edgewater, NJ.
This photo was almost lost forever...
I remember the day well. I was working at my desk on the day's engineering work when the mailroom called. I had just received via messenger a mysterious box from an advertising agency. This could mean only one thing--IT had arrived. I sprang up from my seat, leaving my calculations half finished. I near sprinted to pick up the package, not waiting for it for to be delivered to my desk. I returned to my seat and checked to see if anyone was watching. The coast was clear. I opened the box like a kid on Christmas morning. Inside, there was a brand spanking new, top-secret Nikon camera, code name Q340 (aka the D80) and a kit lens. It still had that new camera smell, ahhhh.
The camera was the same exact one I had used for a day shoot a few weeks beforehand, minus the electrical tape which had covered the model designation from prying eyes as I shot on the streets of the city. What a great day that was, roaming wherever I pleased with two unmarked white vans, video crew, photo techs, Nikon expert, and agency reps in tow.
Today was different. It would be weeks before the camera hit the street. My assignment was simple, or so I thought: use the camera to shoot on my own for a few weeks and upload the best of the best to Nikon Central. Having this camera at my desk made the clock slow to a near standstill. Still a few hours to log before I could get out and shoot away. This mysterious box and its contents were burning a hole in my patience.
The appointed hour arrived and I flew home at the speed of light, scarfed down some dinner, gathered my equipment, and quietly slipped out into the night. Oh what a night it would be, on the shores of the Hudson, shooting the city skyline with the Q340 under the cloak of darkness. I found a deserted patch of shoreline, stashed the car, and trekked to an abandoned pier, a hulking mess of crumbling concrete on top of the swirling black water. I could hear the current gurgle just a few feet away as I set up the tripod under the light of a full moon and the glow of the city just a mile across the murky depths. I attached the camera and shot a few frames, desperately trying to adjust the settings to get my shot. Suddenly the tripod lurched and one of the legs gave way under the weight of this humid summer night. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion as the tripod fell like a giant and the camera, which had been at eye level, crashed down to the unforgiving concrete with a crunching sound. The camera and tripod, still hanging on to each other, teetered on the very edge of the concrete pier like a seesaw, threatening to disappear forever into the jaws of the running river. I leapt without thinking and even though I could barely make out the near-catastrophic scene, I managed to snag the very foot of the tripod as it attempted to drown itself and the camera. I lay on that warm night with my back on the cold concrete, slowly reeling in the camera like a cop talking a jumper off a bridge. I had saved the camera from the drink but what damage was done by the fall? I turned the camera on and to my great astonishment it worked perfectly, mocking me for thinking it was a goner. The lens, well, that was another story. I made my way back to the car, still buzzing with adrenaline.
The next day I made the call back to Nikon Central and relayed to them the events of the previous evening. Was the mission that was to last a few weeks over after only a night? Later that day a messenger delivered another mysterious package. I was back in business!