The Wide Angle: Where’s Waldo … and my lens

Published 9:01 am Sunday, October 2, 2016

With the coming of October comes a dark one-year anniversary.

Somewhere, in a field west of Grand Meadow, is a 35-70mm lens — a lens that belongs to the Herald or rather belonged.

Now it belongs to the corn, and the corn, much like the great lake they call Gitche Gumee, doesn’t give up its secrets.

Email newsletter signup

Instead it pretty much mocked me, which I found rude.

Myself and Jason Schoonover were out doing a story on crops and technology, a twofer that would serve both the paper and our annual Progress section.

The day was windy, but not unpleasant and we had just finished the part of the story that had us sitting in the CHS office  in Grand Meadow talking about the technology aspect of the story.

We reached the field and after chatting with the owner for a little bit went about taking pictures. I had my normal harness on with its assortment of pouches filled with gear and and so we started trudging off across the field to reach a point where the combine was being emptied of its corn.

I used the lens there a couple times, switched it out for a longer lens and, satisfied the job was done, turned and tripped across the harvested part of the field because let’s be honest. Nobody just walks across a freshly harvested field. You stumble your way across like a drunk Fred Astaire.

The completion of our hike landed us back at the car where I started unpacking and stowing my gear when I realized something — my bag was lighter. Now why I didn’t realize this during the walk or even feel it get lighter I don’t know? Too busy dancing I guess.

At any rate, I frantically searched the car hoping it had rolled out there even though I knew I used the lens at the combine. I searched under the car hoping that at worst it fell on the ground and rolled under the car. Nope.

Finally I turned toward the field and realized it was out there somewhere. I felt like using a specific form of sign-language on the field if for no other reason than to make myself feel better.

I didn’t of course, mostly because I didn’t want to driver of the combine to think that the message was for him and thus find myself being chased around the field by an angry farmer in a combine.

It’s a fear.

Jason and I marched into the field hoping to find it retracing our route the best we could.

Here’s the major problem, a problem that I’m willing to bet most farmers know. A corn field, both with and without corn, is a highly confusing chunk of land. When the corn is in, it’s just row after row of green or at the time of harvest dull yellow. When it’s picked, the field is a carpet of stalk. Just a floor of that same constant yellow, only now it was blowing all over the place.

Thank you wind, here’s your message.

I knew the chances of finding the lens were low, especially given this field was still being harvested. I had a rough idea of our route thanks to the position of the truck in the field, my car and wind turbines — all of which became useless as the combine removed row after row of corn.

Distances were off, angles were wrong and my nice, pleasant day was devolving into a string of swear words.

Losing a lens is more than embarrassing. It’s aggravating especially considering the costs involved and there really is no “getting by.” It’s one of my two most used lenses and now I had to come back, explain that not only did I lose said lens but we really need to replace it.

“Buy me stuff,” essentially.

It’s not the first time I’ve been hard on lenses. Back in the day, in 2004 when I landed in Austin, I was sent off to cover a tornado strike near LeRoy. I was new to the paper and the area and to make the best impression I could, I dropped a 70-200mm on a paved road and then had to chase it down the street as it mockingly rolled away from me.

This somehow was worse, because I found that one. This one was buried underneath shaved corn somewhere and what’s worse is that there is probably a pretty good chance I walked over it, perhaps while it was giggling at me in a deranged form of hide and seek.

I’ve since driven by that field countless times and each time I glance at the road that would take me there and the field itself and wonder if I could still find it.

I probably can’t, of course, but that still doesn’t stop me from using my favorite form of saluting.

Yeah, we’re not friends anymore.