Photographer Ryan Wright has a new heartwarming story of how he was reunited with his DSLR camera after he lost it in Iceland by dropping it into a waterfall.
Wright and his girlfriend, Laurel Anne, were traveling with a group in Iceland earlier this year when they visited the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, one of Iceland’s iconic natural landmarks.
While there, Wright set up his camera on a tripod to shoot some landscape photos right next to the falls. As he stood there, his friend Kate shouted for him to turn and smile for a photo.
The photo above was snapped 2 seconds before the DSLR and tripod went tumbling down the rocks and into the waters below. On the front of the camera was a wide-angle lens Wright had rented for the trip, and inside was the memory card that contained all the photos he had shot in Iceland up to that point. There were no backups.
Within minutes, the group had scrambled down to the water to search for the gear. The frigid water soon made a member of the group hypothermic, though, and the search was abandoned.
“We were all sorry for Ryan and the event put a damper on the trip for all of us,” Anne writes. “I think none of us really knew what to say to Ryan about the event, so we didn’t say much. Ryan handled his disappointment exceedingly well, which was nice for everyone.”
The group flew out of Iceland shortly after the incident. Anne lives in Nebraska, and Wright’s home is in Colorado.
Anne then had the idea of secretly contacting scuba diving businesses in Iceland to see if any would be able and willing to help recover the camera and lost photos. After hearing the tale, one business owner in Iceland posted the request to an Iceland diving forum, where a professional diver named Geri noticed it.
Geri got in touch with Anne, and a couple of days later he was out at the waterfall and searching for it underwater over the course of a morning.
A short time later, Anne received a message from Geri:
“I have found your friend’s camera,” Geri wrote. “It is in a heart breaking condition, but the memory card looks promising. Since it was in clear, fresh water I am almost sure that the pictures can be recovered!”
It turns out the camera and tripod were about 6 to 10 feet underwater, wedged against a large rock and surrounded by a strong current. Geri had to weigh himself down with 45 pounds of lead weights in order to reach the gear, which he took home and started drying.
The next day, Anne got another happy message:
“I have great news!,” Geri wrote. “I’ve managed to dry out the memory card completely and recovered all (50GB) of Ryan’s photos!”
After the gear was sent back to Anne, she paid a visit to Ryan in Colorado and surprised him with the recovered camera while on camera:
Here’s Anne’s account of the surprise:
As far as Ryan knew, our plan for Sunday afternoon during my visit was to edit my Iceland trip photos together,” writes Anne. “Little did he know that this fit right into the plan for revealing the surprise.
Before he lost his gear we’d talked about editing photos together, and after the trip we were left with just mine to edit. My friends Mitchell and Sarah had a great suggestion when they heard this story. They suggested I intersperse the photos that Geri sent me from Ryan’s card, into a few of my own Iceland photos so Ryan would see his photos as we’re choosing which to edit. What a great idea for a subtle reveal!
I’ve since learned that subtly isn’t the best route with Ryan. Understandably, he thought the idea of getting his camera equipment back was so remote that the thought didn’t enter his mind even after seeing a couple photos he’d taken. After looking through the photos and seeing a few he knew I didn’t take he was just confused so I slid his camera card onto the table in front of him. Again, too subtle. He thought I was giving him a new, empty camera card that looked just like the one he’d had. I explained that that was the camera card he used on the trip and he asked how that could be. From there I began telling him this whole story and he was blown away!
And that’s the story of how one photographer managed to get precious photos and gear back thanks to the efforts of his thoughtful and determined girlfriend.