10 solutions for memory-making when you’ve forgotten your camera.

Posted on
Jul 29, 2009
Posted in: Advice, Top Ten


It’s 104 degrees in Seattle … do you know where your camera is?

This was going to be a post about what happens when a city full of pasty white left-coasters reaches temperatures above 100 degrees. I was going to brave downtown Seattle, on what is the hottest day on record (though rumor has it that one day – back when we were still part of the primordial ooze – was hotter). I was going to take lots of photos, of people running around in shorts, of packed malls, and of the crazy old guy who screams on the corner of 5th and Pine (who, to his credit, was out there today as well). I even lugged my miserably huge camera downtown. And when I tried to take a photo, I received the message, the glorious message, that we’ve all gotten at somepoint in time: No Card. My memory card was not in my camera. It was back home, in my laptop, quietly melting.

And I am pissed. So this is the best I can do:

I tried to make heat lines coming off the temperature. It didnt really work.

I tried to make heat lines coming off the temperature. It didn’t really work.

Also, for some reason, I find it hysterical that it says “Clear”. As though that’s really an issue when it’s 103 EFFING DEGREES OUT.

But I digress. Back to forgetting my camera. Or losing my camera. Or having my camera break. After all, all of these things have happened at some point or another while I was on vacation. And while it’s truly lame, it doesn’t have to stop you from recording memories of your trip. My top 10 solutions for when your camera is AWOL:

    1. Snap pictures on your cell phone. Yeah, the photos will be grainy, out-of-focus, and probably dark (but hell, most of my snapshots look like that, anyway). They won’t do your trip justice, but they’ll be memorable. Plus, think how nonchalant and badass you’ll look, wandering around sans Canon.

      This is a dark, grainy, and out-of-focus photo of a Jeff Koons sculpture on the top of the MOMA in New York. It was wicked, and no, the picture does not do it justice.

      This is a dark, grainy, and out-of-focus photo of a Jeff Koons sculpture on the top of the MOMA in New York. It was wicked, and no, the picture does not do it justice.

    2. Buy a disposable. Photos where everyone looks weird or has their eyes closed are becoming a thing of the past. Our children will delete every embarassing or unflattering photo of them that exists, creating the impression that they had no awkward stage. Don’t let them off that easily. Get a disposable camera, and catch everyone at their worst. It’s not only entertaining – it builds character.
    3. My retirement plan? One day I will blackmail them both with this photo.
    4.  Take pretend pictures. When we unexpectedly ended up at the top of the Empire State Building (courtesy of Mike Grehan) without our camera, I started pantomiming that I was taking my hubby’s photo. He played along until I told him, “Hold on. I need to take another one. You blinked the first time.” I believe his exact words were, “God damn you, woman.”
    5. Buy a novelty photo. You know, the godawful, stand-in-front-of-a-bluescreen-or-pose-with-a-stupid-prop-and-we’ll-make-it-look-like-you’re-on-top-of-the-Eiffel-tower photos you encounter at every tourist attraction, everywhere? Sure, the price tags can be a little steep – but how often do you get a photo of your mom with George Washington?

See her necklace? It’s a holographic Baby Jesus and Madonna pendant. My mother is delightfully esoteric.

  1. Befriend someone whose camera works. Kids, let me tell you how it was when I was young: if you wanted a copy of a picture from someone, you’d have to sneak into their home at night, steal the negatives, get prints made, and return the negatives all before the break of dawn. It required the skills of a ninja and 24-hour photo processing place. In this day and age, you just need to ask someone in your party to snap a picture of you and post it to flickr (hopefully sans tags like “moocher” and “buyyourowncameradumbass”).
  2. Send yourself lots of postcards: Jot down what you did, what you ate, what you loved (or hated), and mail it to yourself. Sure, it’s equal parts narcissistic and schizophrenic (most of my advice is), but you’ll have an one-of-an-kind keepsake from your trip, and something waiting for you in your mailbox back home (besides Valpak coupons and past due bills).
  3. Try fixing it yourself. In the immortal words of Tim Gunn, make it work. Last time my camera died on me, I found that it was still taking okay photos; just the flash and the digital display were broken. So I snapped a bunch of pictures in the daytime at a gorgeous sculpture park in Jersey. Yes, you read that right: a gorgeous sculpture park in Jersey.
  4. Find a photo booth. For some reason, I find these are a lot more prevalent in Europe than they are domestically. There’s something fantastically old school and romantic about them (and hopefully not because someone just fornicated in them). Plus, they’re easya to use: Just hop inside, and keep hands and arms inside the photobooth at all times. Or don’t (it’s not like they move. If they do, you’re probably in an elevator). In “about 5 minutes”, you’ll have four photos; hopefully you’ll look decent in at least one of them.
  5. Buy yourself a souvenir. No camera = shopping (it’s like, Einstein’s law of finances or something). After all, now you “need something to remember the trip by” (because presumably next month’s credit card bill isn’t enough). Pick your poison – either something so gaudy you’ll pee a little from laughter (like Leaning Tower of Pisa shot glasses that actually lean) or something so unimpeachably awesome (like Leaning Tower of Pisa shot glasses that actually lean) that you must have it. Either way? Awesome.
  6. Support a Local Artist. They’re everywhere -poor, persistent kids who are determined not to let a total lack of talent prevent them from an art career. Whether it’s a godawful charicature that looks nothing like you, or a meticulously drawn sketch that looks nothing like you, you’ll feel good knowing your cash is going towards a worthy cause: helping art students get high.

    This sample art will help prepare you for the level of quality you might receive from a street artist.

    This sample will help prepare you for the sort of street art you might end up buying.

Note: You could also try to take your camera to a shop to get it fixed. This has never, ever worked for me. Even domestically, I’ve never been able to locate a good camera repair shop (not even in friggin Manhattan, of all places) and searching for one isn’t exactly how I like to spend my trips.

Anywho, so concludes my lessons on what to do when your camera breaks while on vacation. I’ve managed to kill an afternoon in my husband’s lovely air-conditioned office. The outside temperature? 104 degrees. Fortunately tomorrow will cool down, with highs only up to 100. Thank you, Satan.

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