The Travel Photographer: Camera Mishaps On The Road ~ Finding Grace and Opportunity

It seems I never stop learning when I’m on the road.

Some of the most poignant lessons I’ve learned from my travels these past two years:  expect the unexpected, always be ready for (photo) opportunities, and handle camera or other mishaps with calm, grace and positivity.

From my old laptop short-circuiting during a major power outage in Jamaica two years ago (after I left it plugged in), to my external storage device with my photos failing on me (but later recovered), and finally my expensive 2.8 lens falling on concrete in Grenada from a loose connection, I can say I’ve experienced mishaps on the road!  But I learned to deal.

So when my Nikon SLR (body) decided to malfunction on me (for the first time ever) two weeks ago while I was in Jamaica –  I was less devastated than I thought I would be.  By now I have experience, and I know that when stuff happens on the road the best way to handle it is to embrace fate and focus on the solution or better yet, be still and listen to the message at hand.

Ironically, I had been thinking of getting a second camera body as a back up for a long time now, but had filed that thought away. Well, now destiny was telling me: you are at a higher level now, you need a back up! But more importantly, destiny was also telling me: time to rest a little, put the camera down and regroup, see what creative inspirations will flow from not going into “shooting” mode every day and from being still.

It was the best thing that’s happened. Even though, a week after the stillness, I received a photo request from an editor for a travel guide, during this time of no camera (scream!). But I made it work. I jumped on the opportunity, and found a way. There had to be someone who could rent/lend their camera, or a store that would rent me one. Well there was no pro camera store like there was in Grenada, but through talking to folks I found a photographer who was not only willing to lend me his Canon but also his lenses, his tripod, memory card reader and anything else I needed. And for nothing in exchange (even though I offered), other than helping a fellow photographer. What was the likelihood of that?  OK, his main zoom lens ended up having an autofocus defect he’d warned me about, and I had never used a Canon for work, but hey that’s where all the learning kicked in – shooting manual and trusting my eye (any nice camera does not a photographer make!).  This experience also made me realize what a wonderful network we can have as travel photographers (and writers too), when we choose to share tips or help each other along the way.  (I also realized, how much I love my Nikon gear, Nikonian for life!)

All in all this trip’s mishap gave me time to rest, connect more with people, network, dabble with a Canon and  think ahead to my next plans.

I chose to remain positive and grateful against all odds.  And each time opportunity knocked – not a coincidence, in my humble opinion.

So here’s to travel and embracing both the curve balls and the blessings that come with it.

Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel journalist, photographer, and guidebook author specializing in the Caribbean region. Her work has been published in major travel publications, including CNN, AFAR, Delta Sky, Lonely Planet, Shermans Travel, and BBC, among others. A self-professed "culture-holic," Lily left her native Ethiopia at age one, fast developing a passion for the expat Caribbean life. In 2008, she ditched her US corporate law career for the road and created Sunshine and Stilettos—a travel photography blog showcasing authentic ways to experience the Caribbean, through culture and nature. Lily has since partnered with Caribbean tourism boards and travel brands on major content projects. She also authors print guidebooks on three destinations, including Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Read more on her site,

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  1. mike 14 December, 2010 at 3:58 PM #

    sounds like u’re in a good place. learning is the real reason things happen, and once we stay open, great things are in store.

  2. RastaMermaid 14 December, 2010 at 4:42 PM #

    The beautiful thing is you never stressed,just looked for an answer and it fell in your lap!

    Awesome blessings.

  3. lilyg 15 December, 2010 at 10:06 AM #

    I couldn’t agree more Mike! Hear, hear!

    Yes RM, it really did (and followed me after I reached home too lol). Awesome blessings, give thanks for your feedback!

  4. lorraine 15 December, 2010 at 11:43 AM #

    I only caught the part about looking ahead!
    Looking forward to takin it on the road! Better luck next time, right?
    One love

  5. Julie 18 December, 2010 at 4:41 PM #

    Great post, Lily! And I love your attitude.

  6. lilyg 19 December, 2010 at 12:08 PM #

    Thank you Julie! 🙂

  7. Alex Evans 14 November, 2011 at 2:29 PM #

    This post is so reflective of you as a person… This is also a great message… Panic and anxiety do not yield solutions

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