An Unexpected Adventure on a Secluded Lake

With the beautiful light that evening I knew I had to be on the lake

It was a clear, calm day in late June. The sun shone brightly, and though the harsh light wasn't ideal for daytime photography, I eagerly awaited the evening to kayak and capture wildlife in the golden rays of sunset. There's a secluded lake about a kilometer back in the bush, home to families of red-necked grebes, various duck species, numerous American coots, occasional horned grebes, and a family of beavers. My husband cut a trail to this lake a few years ago, creating a beautiful sanctuary that I have all to myself, save for the occasional black bear or moose.

On my kayak on the lake enjoying the sunset

The lake is surrounded by 50 to 100 feet of reeds, with no sandy beaches. My launch point for the kayak is one of the beaver channels, which they carve out to access trees. These channels are like deep ruts with banks on either side, and this one has an 18-inch drop from the ground into the water. When I launch my kayak, I pull it into the channel where it widens enough to fit. I place my among the stinging nettle and Canadian thistle plants on the embankment. I step into the kayak, grab my gear, and push out, hoping no wayward frog decides to join me.

My kayak in the beaver run I use to get on the lake

This evening, I arrived at the lake about an hour and a half before sunset, making noise to alert the resident black bear. At the edge of the channel, I placed my towel, hoodie, water bottle, and camera. My 2.0x extender on my 400mm f2.8 lens added a few inches, making it a tight fit in my 40L dry bag. Ideally, the bag should roll over three times to seal, but with the extender, I managed two rolls. As I placed the camera down the dry bag sitting on top the towel I did not realize it was at a slight angle and it rolled and plopped right into the channel before I could even reach. The bag floated, but the top opened slightly, allowing about an inch or two of water inside. Without hesitation, I knelt on a stinging nettle plant and quickly retrieved the bag.

Nature's beauty still awaited me on the lake

Frantically, I dried the camera and lens with the towel. The camera turned on, but nothing worked—the focus button did nothing, and the viewfinder showed only the unfocused scene before me. Replacing the battery fixed the issue, much to my relief. I then grabbed the kayak and my paddle, but in my haste, I flipped the kayak over onto the paddle, breaking it in half. Determined not to miss the perfect light, I rushed back home on my ATV to get another paddle.

I could not even tell what was happening in the viewfinder it was so blurry I was just pointing, using single point focus and hoping for the best

Finally, 25 minutes later, I was on the lake with about an hour of light left. The golden highlights began to appear on the water, but every shot seemed blurry through the viewfinder. The camera struggled to focus, and in the rapidly lowering light, it was hard to see if the grebes were in focus. Despite the challenges, I continued shooting until the golden reflections faded.

Despite the unfortunate events I was rewarded with some beautiful images

Back home, I discovered condensation inside the viewfinder—potentially disastrous for lenses and cameras. Worry set in quickly. I was leaving for Alaska in two weeks leading a tour to photograph brown bears and although my equipment was insured I would never be able to replace it in time. I disassembled everything, letting it dry overnight. Luckily, the dry climate helped, and by morning, the camera was working fine. Thank goodness!

My camera and lens being air dried at home

This experience taught me valuable lessons. Complacency is dangerous; just because something hasn't happened before doesn't mean it won't. I won't cheat with the dry bag again. The extender will be attached only once I'm ready to shoot on the lake. Life's lessons happen for a reason, and I am heeding this one.

Will I still take my camera on the lake? Absolutely. But now, I'll be more cautious and better prepared, ensuring every moment on the lake is as perfect as possible.

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