Sunday Sep 02, 2007

Buy the Filter

Officially I'm back from Israel, and behind about a half dozen blog entries that are in various half-composed states on devices ranging from my laptop to the nightstand notepad from a hotel in Tiberias. So much to write about, but one incident early on in our trip sticks out because it was a potential high and low point.

We had taken a jeep ride along the Burma Road, an unpaved, unfinished but well-marked trail that runs from about 10 kilometers outside of Jersusalem into the city. During the 1948 War for Independence, the Burma road was built as an alternative to the main road which had been heavily fortified. It's quite a ride, particularly in a vehicle with random suspension. At our first stop, I hopped out of the back, not checking that my camera bag was properly zipped, and proceeded to watch my Canon Digital SLR camera do the Rebel yell about 5 feet onto a flat rock where we'd parked. It landed smack on the cap of the short zoom lens.

I've been waiting 22 years to prove the advice of the man who sold me my first SLR camera (also a Canon): "Always put a cheap UV filter in front of every lens. When, not if, but when you drop the camera, you'll only break the filter". He was right. The lens cap managed to crack the filter, but the glass didn't scratch the surface of the much more expensive (and vital) lens underneath. I struggled with using a longer telephoto lens for part of the day, and then invested in a few tools to fish the broken glass out of the filter, returning my favorite lens to service. The filter ring was hopelessly jammed into the lens, but at least I had functional camera equipment for the next two weeks.

Our local camera store had to use a filter wrench (looks like an oil filter wrench) to extract the old UV filter from the lens, and I'm sure they're saving the old filter ring to retell the story. Simon Phipps likes to say that we pay for things at the point of utility, when we find we need them in whatever productive aspect they were acquired. I'll add my own corrollary: We pay for risk management, whether it's service plans, insurance, or redundant parts, where the cost and time elements of a failure far outweight the costs of protecting against that failure. In short: always buy the UV filter.

Now if only I can figure out why my Digital Rebel insists on over-exposing pictures taken in desert conditions, I'll be happy. Might need another filter....

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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