How to Always Retrieve a Lost Camera

Geek Culture

Lost Digital CameraLost Digital Camera

"Lost Digital Camera" Original photo by Flickr user dreamsjung, used under Creative Commons License.

If you’ve ever lost your camera somewhere, you can probably appreciate the sentiments expressed on this poster. More than just the expense of replacing the camera itself is the loss of all those pictures you may have had stored on the memory card, particularly if you haven’t been downloading everything frequently. (Of course, you should be doing that — and backing up your hard drive.)

One nifty tool to help you keep your picture library up to date is an Eye-Fi card. It’s an SD card with its own built-in wifi. You use a card reader to configure it on your computer, but then when your camera is turned on within range of a recognized wifi network, it’ll automagically download all your photos on to your computer’s hard drive, or even upload them to Flickr or some photo-sharing site of your choice. Some versions of the card will geo-tag your pics. You can even set it up to send pictures to, say, an iPad even when there are no wifi networks detected — it creates its own ad-hoc network for your iPad to access the photos.

Of course, even if you have been downloading photos frequently, if you lose your camera you really want it back. But how will you find it?

You could, of course, stick posters up everywhere around the location where you lost it. Call nearby businesses and check the lost and found. Hope for the best. I’ve done this, by the way. Years ago I lost my camera while snowshoeing on Mount Hood. A kind stranger found it, turned it into the lodge, who contacted me and I got it back.

Recently, though, I lost my camera while I was at the Oberlin-Sappa State Park in northwestern Kansas. We were on our cross-country drive for our move, and we stopped at the park for a picnic lunch and a short hike before hitting the road again. By the time I realized the camera wasn’t in the van, we were 250 miles away (and not headed back). Thanks to my Eye-Fi card, I had downloaded all but the most recent photos to my iPad already, but I was really hoping I didn’t have to replace the camera. Going back to put up posters was out of the question, and even calling about a lost and found wasn’t likely — it’s a small State Park and we seemed to be the only humans around the day we went. Now what?

Well, a couple days later, I got an email from somebody saying they’d found my camera at the park. A week later, I got it back in the mail. Here’s how they found me: the first photo in my camera is a snapshot of my name, email address, mailing address, and phone number. I learned the tip from Photojojo a while back, and I’ve done it ever since. After you’ve downloaded and cleared your camera’s memory card, take a picture of your information, and then protect the image so you don’t accidentally delete it. On some digital cameras you can even set it so that it’s the startup screen, showing the info for a second each time you turn on the camera.

You’re still dependent on the kindness of strangers and trusting that they’ll have some sense of decency and honesty to get in touch with you. So you could put another image on there stating a reward for finding the camera, or (as the poster above states) at least the return of your memory card. But it’s a very simple way to make it easier for somebody to find you if you happen to be a butterfingers like me.

Oh, and one more thing: be sure to thank the person who returns your camera!

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