Large Format Horror Story
Over the weekend, I went out to Kilgore Falls (a nice size waterfall northwest of Belair, Maryland) with a camera club. I brought my Seneca "black beauty" whole plate, three film holders, my Turner-Reich 12-19-25 triple convertible, and my Induro CF 314 tripod. I had ascended to the top of the falls and was taking some shots there. I had finished my fourth exposure and decided I wanted to climb back down to try and cross the stream for another view, and started to unlimber everything. I removed my bag from the hook on the center column so I could organize my lenses, holders, meter, etc. In doing so, I must have brushed against the tripod and unbalanced it. It pitched head-first over the rock, bounced into the stream at the top of the falls, the lens board separated from the camera and deposited the lens in the water, and the camera and tripod proceeded to sweep over the top of the falls and plunge a further 40 feet down into the pool at the base of the falls. One of my club-mates happened to be wearing chest-waders and was able to wade out to where the camera and tripod were floating, and retrieve it. I went in the water at the top of the falls and retrieved the lens.
The shutter on the lens is mostly operational, but will still need to be serviced as it has a bit of a catch when cocking it. The barrel of the front element of the lens has a nasty ding in the filter ring, but otherwise appears ok. No scratches to the glass, no cracks, and the filter ring gouge appears to be A: repairable (it's a brass barrel, so the metal is soft enough to be re-shaped) and B: even if I can't/don't repair it, it will not impair the function, only the aesthetics. The camera body, although not unscathed, is pre-eminently re-buildable. The worst of it is some of the nickel-plated hardware that holds the rear standard to the bed got bent and a couple of screws tore out of the wood. There's a couple of chunks of wood that came out of the bed, but nothing that will prevent the camera from functioning. The rear extension rail took the worst of the beating, and now has the ability to become a parallelogram instead of a rectangle, but it is for all intents and purposes still complete. Of course the ground glass broke, but that's the least of my worries. The biggest deal was the bellows did NOT tear or become detached. The tripod came through unscathed, and it actually floated (although I think the bellows on the camera body helped with that).
I'll be sending the camera off to Richard Ritter some time this summer to be remade. I think it will be apropos to ask him to make a little plaque to affix somewhere on the camera with "Steve Austin" engraved on it.