#1236. Gear is only great if you miss it – I do

By Paul Perton | Opinion

Oct 19

After three years marooned in the UK by COVID, airlines and governments that couldn’t form a unitary travel policy, I finally got back to my home near Cape Town in February.

The plan was to start emptying the house and put it on the market. Over almost a month, I managed to corral the valuables, papers and precious things collected over almost fifty years, securing them in a locked storeroom, before returning to London in March.

As is so often the case in South Africa, there wasn’t much interest in property sales and by September, I was back on a plane to try and move the process along.

Three days after arriving and during one of the regular power outages that characterise life in South Africa, the darkness won and I decided on an early night.

Wednesday morning, I discovered the thieves that have been burgling homes in the area for months, had paid me a nocturnal visit too. Gone were my MacBook Pro, phone and iPad. Along with those valuables, a lot of small stuff, including my backpack, spare multifocal glasses, rain jacket and…

…a lifetime’s collection of Nikon camera kit. My D800e, and much loved D700, plus a large carry case loaded with lenses, from the manual 50mm f1.4 and spectacular 28mm f2.8 to my 500mm mirror lens. Gone. Everything.

Pascal’s article about missing gear was poorly timed and took on a particular note for me.

Fortunately, everything was insured, but largely irreplaceable. I’ll content myself with memories of the D700.

Washington State
Cape Point
The Great Sand Dunes
The Great Sand Dunes

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  • Robert Sessions says:

    So sorry about your stuff. Even if one is relatively unattached to things, the feeling of violation is hard to ignore. I love the range of your photos. They’re all excellent, but I’m especially motivated to expand my own photo gallery. Thanks.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I guess you’re about to be besieged by comments from all of us, telling you how sorry we are for your predicament. Nowhere near as sorry, perhaps, as you are.

    But I have a thought. Rarely in my life have I come across so many fantasmagorical photos! I assume this is a random sample. Why, oh why, don’t you get someone to publish a book of your photos? Words like “stunning” – “sensational” – “OMG! – look at this one!” are flying around in my head.

    The one which I presume was taken on the Copenhagen underground system, for instance – it makes the view feel a little like one of those particles flying around in the CERN large hadron collider or something!

    If you’re going to be this clever & advanced with your photographs, then I think you have a moral obligation to share them with the rest of the world!

    • Paul Perton says:

      Thanks Pete. A book – been working on that for at least a decade. Maybe this is the motivation I need to get the job done.

      Plus, I need to replace the kit – the new Hasselblad calls more strongly than I thought it might.

    • pascaljappy says:

      +1 wrt the book. I’ve seen Paul’s other photos over the years. There’s enough talent there to fill numerous tomes.

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    The thieves may have taken your gear (the bastards!), but they can’t take away your photographic talent! The images in the article are proof of that, as well as being stunning, my friend. Unfortunately, it’s a very sad ending to your time in SA, which is a shame because I know how much you loved it. Keep your chin up, get yourself some new gear and get back out there creating art again. Hugs.

    • Paul Perton says:

      Thanks Nancee. Yes it’s been a bit of a body blow. Winter’s coming; long evenings ideal for sorting images and making selections.

      Suspect I’ll need a moderator or two…

      Be well.

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    I sympathise with you Paul. It is not only regular power outages that characterise life South Africa.

    A great set of images from around the globe.

    Whenever i hear the word Theewaterskloof the image of the largest local dam with less than 10% water in it springs to mind.

    Happy belated birthday by the way

    • Paul Perton says:

      Thanks and thanks Ian.

      Sorry I didn’t manage to catch up with you (again). Until it happens, you’ve no idea the impact of losing a computer, e-mail addresses, URLs and passwords can have.


      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Yes – well – that much, I do understand! Microsoft did it to me, several years ago. They destroyed 500 Gb of files, documents, programs, emails, addresses, passwords, the lot. Thank God my photos were all stored on an external drive, beyond their reach!
        All my company records (except what I’d already printed), all the accounting records of the company (hope the tax inspector never calls on me!)
        It was entirely their fault. And I had a maintenance contract with them. But when they realised this was happening, they cancelled the contract to avoid their obligations, refunded the premium I’d paid, and hung up on me.
        I don’t know how you feel about going back to SA – but I’m NEVER going back to Microsoft!

        • Dan says:

          Hmm – maybe I am too paranoid, but I have data saved both in the cloud and on my own file servers (in duplicate). The chance of my file servers getting stolen from my house while the cloud crashes at the same time are rather small. 😀

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            Good idea. Three places at least – your own servers (off the computers), and the cloud – as well as the computers.
            Several clouds have fallen over so far – not all of them storing photos, I don’t think, but enough photos vanished in a puff of smoke to make me rather anxious. But the backup drive was safe – for most customers!
            Various ‘togs have commented and – because their livelihoods are dependent on those photos – said they prefer backup storage to be at “at least 2 separate locations” – that is, separate from their business location. That way, it would take a nuclear holocaust to wipe out all three at once!

  • Dan says:

    Paul, I am sorry to hear about the theft. No matter what anyone says, it is hard to lose this way things gathered over a lifetime, especially when they have an emotional value. That being said – you may also see this as an opportunity to modernize and trim your equipment. Maybe switch to Nikon mirrorless, pick up a handful of lenses – they are all exceptional – and keep doing those amazing pictures you have posted in the article.

    Regarding passwords – the ones stored on the Apple devices should be saved in the apple cloud attached to your AppleID – if you have a phone, they are already there. The others – if you logged in with a google account for Chrome/ Microsoft account for Edge or IE – they should be also stored in the cloud.

    • Paul Perton says:

      Thanks Dan.

      Yup all my passwords are there – I also use 1Password – but I didn’t have any kind of Apple product left to access the repository with, plus I’d recently changed my password to something Safari generated – good luck carrying that around in your head. A good lesson in the learning.

      I’ve spent the last couple of hours thinking about new Nikons. Or a Hasselblad X2D and just two lenses.

      I moved to Fuji some years ago because the Nikons were so heavy for long distance travel. Used the Fujis when I had to carry a camera bag and the Nikons when they went into my Land Rover. In the final analysis, I’m not going to change anything – yet. I’ve got a couple of projects underway and will continue with the Fujis until I feel that I’m ready to make a buy decision. I’ve already had a letter of thanks from my bank manager 😉

      • Dan says:

        Fujis are just fine unless you have very specific reasons to need full frame or bigger. Which very likely is not the case for non professional use.

        Good luck with the passwords recovery! If you do not have a phone, the AppleID recovery may be tricky but it is doable.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Gear can be replaced…
    But loosing a great deal of one’s personal history is heavy, I know, and getting over it enough takes time.

    Wishing you God speed with your selling your house and finding your new “ideal” equipment!
    – – –

    Nikon Z has one advantage, its short register, 16 mm. There is a Z to Sony E adapter, and Mirex also makes a Sony E to Canon EOS tilt/shift adapter – 10 degrees and +/- 15 mm.
    ( Personally I’m waiting for a crop sensor Nikon Z with IBIS…)

    I found, but can’t find again, one serious rather good review.
    gives a good description.
    ( I just found that Mirex’ internet page
    is down.)
    – – –

    Lovely photos (as usual…)!!
    They are all the kind I’d like large on my wall – if I had space enough!
    My personal favourites are
    the two “Copenhagen”, the two “Sand dunes” and “Botswana”!

    And yes, that book – if you have time for it and find a good enough printer – should be great!

    Best wishes for your restart!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Kristian, there’s a review of Mirex on DS, here: https://www.dearsusan.net/2015/01/06/307-tilt-shift-lenses-worth-k-mirex-adapter-review/

      It’s not the exact model you mention, but it might still help you get a feel of the object and functionality 🙂


      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Thanks, Pascal,
        yes, I remember enjoying that post!

        A possible problem with the Sony E to EOS t/s is the short length and small size.
        ( But it is probably of higher quality than most of the cheap stuff.)
        So the other Mirex t/s adapters – for Medium format lenses on FF cameras are probably rather more ergonomic.

        My interest in this one is because of the choice also of (manual) shorter focal lengths and zooms. Also in a lower price range – consider e.g. the market for Zeiss Jena M42 lenses (+ adapter to EOS).

  • Leonard Norwitz says:

    Yo Paul, Your losses sent shudders down me spine, but I was properly buoyed by your brilliant photos, as I hope you are. I second and third the motion that you should prepare yourself to get noticed.

  • Lad Sessions says:

    Paul, The camera kit can be replaced but your luminous images transcend gear, and what’s most important, your experience can’t be taken from you. The images will be new and different, but surely they will not be less. You may need new gear and new opportunities, but you don’t need new talent, only new opportunities. I wish you well, even as I commiserate your loss. Thank you for what you have given us all–and yes, you should bequeath us a book!

  • Mer says:

    Great photos. You made excellent use of your D700.

    Was sorry to read this. A lousy thing to happen, but I’m glad you didn’t wake and fall into an escalating situation. Live to photograph another day and all that.

    I hope the property sells soon.


  • Pascal O. says:

    My heart goes out to you. A burglary is always a traumatic experience, especially when what is taken away is dear to one’s heart.
    If this brings any comfort to you, the burglars limited their action to taking things away from you and did not attempt to do anything worse, unless I am mistaken.
    If they were able to take your equipment, your talent is intact as demonstrated by this memorable selection of yours.
    I am sure that when the time comes, you will make the right renewal choice, so that you can carry on delighting us DS readers, time after time.
    I won’t make any suggestion to you, though, ’cause as you know, after using Nikons for a long time, I have crossed the street and become a Sony fan boy ;-).
    Take care, Paul.

  • PaulB says:


    I cringed twice when I read your post. First at the though of losing your collection, and then at the thought of losing your phone/computer and everything they contain.

    It appears that you were smart and had your processed images on a backup drive that the thieves did not get.

    I will add my vote to the list for a book. These are wonderful images. My favorites are; Cape Point, Beijing, Scotland, and the Great Sand Dunes. Plus, I have to ask; Where in Washington did you make the image of the garage door and old truck cab?

    Sitting here I have another cringe on your behalf. What to do? Replace or update what you had or try something totally new? Too much choice is not a good thing for me. As it leads to paralysis by analysis.

    So what is my suggestion? When you decide, don’t dabble, and go with gusto. Your time is pretty valuable too.

    Good luck

    • Paul Perton says:

      Hi Paul and thanks for the kind words.

      The b/w pic was shot in 2013 at Forks en route to the Olympia National Park with our own Nancee Rostad.

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