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I let my guard down for just a second…

I was looking forward to seeing Athens again.  I was here for 1 day only when I was 17 years old, a stop on a whirlwind educational trip to the Mediterranean that I took with my school in Grade 11.  Diane and I got up early and drove from Delphi, the home of the famous Oracle, and arrived at Camping Athens in about 3 hours.  We had a quick lunch and caught a bus followed by the metro (subway) to the Acropolis.

We decided to beat the heat of the afternoon by first visiting the air-conditioned Acropolis Museum, a beautiful new facility at the base of the Acropolis.  It was built with easy money prior to the Greek debt crisis to house the treasures of the Acropolis, the temple complex on the hill above.  The Acropolis is the site of the famous Parthenon, a 2500 year old temple to the goddess Athena the Virgin and the finest temple of the ancient world.  This museum provides a good history of the Acropolis from ancient through classical to modern times, displays many pieces of statuary, and has a full-scale installation of the frieze of the Parthenon.

We headed up to the Acropolis around 5 PM, hoping that the majority of tourists would have vacated.  We hiked up through the Propylaea Gate, past the Temple of Athena Nike, then around the Parthenon and the Erectheion.  I took lots of photos, some of which were undoubtedly outstanding, but we eyed an approaching storm and headed down the hill.  The sky became grey and the wind picked up.  The marble steps and rocks were slippery enough on our way up and were likely to be even more so when the rain started coming down.

I climbed Areopagus (Mars Hill), a bare marble outcrop across near the base of the Acropolis upon which the Apostle Paul was supposed to have delivered his famous speech (Acts 17:16-34) to Athenians about the Christian god.  Diane needed to go to the bathroom, so she headed off to the ticket booth to find the loo.  The storm looked like it might bypass us.  I sat there with some brave tourists watching the storm sweep down on the city of Athens below us.  Diane soon returned so I stepped away from my choice bit of rock, leaving my backpack there to secure my spot.  I helped Diane up the final bit of stone and we returned to my chosen seat.  Streaks from the clouds showed us where the rain was falling.  Lightening arched down on the distant hills.  It was a spectacular show.  Luckily I brought refreshments.  Salted peanuts and a large can of beer to share.  I was really enjoying myself.  Diane didn’t like the look of the approaching storm and wanted to go down.

A grey rock outcrop viewed from above, surrounded by trees with houses in the distance

Mars Hill viewed from the Acropolis (source: Wikipedia)

I reached for my camera to take another amazing picture of the storm, but it wasn’t there.  I remembered setting it on the rock beside me, but it was gone.  A quick feel of my backpack confirmed that it wasn’t there either.  I said to Diane, “My camera is gone.  Stay here with the stuff” and I jumped up to see what I could see.  I had only set it down beside me one minute beforehand.

I didn’t see anyone obvious carrying it, so I headed for the steps.  There were two young guys there, one of whom was carrying a camera protectively, but it had a different strap than mine.  I ran down the steps and found 2 Greek cops at the bottom, sitting in a marked Smart Car.  I was eyeing the crowd retreating from the rock, but I didn’t see my camera.  I told the policemen that someone just stole my camera.  To their credit, one of them jumped into action, and I followed him up onto the rock.  By this time the rain had started falling, and Diane was packing to leave.

Because I hadn’t seen who took the camera, there wasn’t much we could do.  We scanned the crowd, but no one looked suspicious, until the cop spoke to 3 young men carrying plastic bags.  They started to scatter, and the cop started to chase them, so I started to chase them too.  The cop quickly called it off though, and said that they weren’t camera thieves, but illegal umbrella salesmen, operating without a license.

And so, my camera, 2 spare batteries, 2 memory cards, and the case were gone in an instant.

I am an experienced traveller (48 countries and counting…)  I know better.  In all my travels, the most valuable thing I’ve had stolen was a travel alarm clock somewhere in Indonesia.  I’ve met many others, including close friends, who’ve lost valuables while traveling though.  In certain places you only need to let your guard down for a second.

On the bright side (I’m an optimist), the camera had served me well.  It was 40 months old and had been traveling for over 15 months of its life, visiting 4 continents.  I got my money’s worth.  And fortunately, I made a copy of my photos only 2 days before, so I didn’t lose many. Apparently the person who took it wanted it more than I did.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to share my Delphi or Acropolis pictures with you, but let me assure you, they were awesome.

Update – I’m going to buy a new camera, spare battery, memory card, and case to replace the ones I’d lost.  Let’s hope that I can record as many wonderful memories with these as I did with the last ones.  In the meantime, we’re using our back-up point-and-shoot camera and iPhone for photos.

Author’s Note — Today’s blog cost hundreds of dollars.  I never knew that blogging would be so expensive!

Bad Travel Photography

Many people enjoy taking travel photos.  Cumulatively I’ve taken between 5,000 and 10,000 of them on my journeys, and I’ve seen a lot of other people doing the same.  Based on this experience, here are some examples of bad travel photography.

The 1-Hander (also known as the Too Cool for School) – There’s a reason why most people have 2 hands.  If you’re too cool to use them to hold your camera, then you get the blurry photos you deserve.

The Spy – Taking pictures of people without their permission.  This is particularly egregious if they realize that you are doing it and you do it anyway.

The Bad Pad – I understand why people bring their iPad when they travel, but it was not intended to be used in lieu of a camera.

Patrick taking a photo of a couple in Greece with their iPad

The Bad Pad (by request)

The Bandito – Taking photos when doing so is not permitted (often seen in churches).

The “I don’t know what it is, but get a picture of me with it anyhow” – Posing in front of something without knowing what it is.  (Note – this item, The Bad Pad, and The Bandito were also mentioned in my post The Best and Worst Kinds of Tourism.

The Fly-By – If you can’t be bothered to stop walking long enough to take a photo, it can’t be worthwhile.

The Drive-By – If it’s not worth stopping the car for…  See The Fly-By.

Patrick taking a photo through the window while driving the motorhome

The Drive-By   (Do not attempt this yourself.  Professional driver on a closed course)

The Hold Out — Holding the camera with outstretched arms or high above ones’ head when it isn’t required.  Use the view finder or put your reading glasses on!  Worse when combined with The 1-Hander.

Patrick taking a picture of some Greek ruins holding the carmera with outstreched arms

The Hold Out

The Reach Around – Reaching over or worse around someone else (yes, I’ve seen it) to get a photo rather than waiting for them to move.

The Mosh Pit  – Taking a picture when the background or foreground is polluted with other tourists, especially if they’re in a position to partially block the subject.

Photo of Lion Gate at Mycenae with tourists in the foreground

The Mosh Pit (Lion Gate at Mycenae, Greece)

The “I’m more important than posterity”  — Using a flash when it is not permitted, something done to help preserve paintings or other priceless bits of antiquity.

The Smart Ass – Taking photos with a smart phone rather than bringing an actual camera.  A bit sleazier if this is being done to avoid paying the extra fee that some sites charge to take pictures (even though I don’t agree with this practice to wring more money out of visitors).

Patrick taking a picture with an iPhone

The Smart Ass

The “I’m on the case” – Taking photos with your smart phone or iPad while the case is hanging down below it, making it more intrusive.

The Narcissist – Taking a photo of myself (or my group) with an outstretched hand.

Patrick taking a picture of himself with outstreched arm

The Narcissist

The Monopoly — Standing to stop and review my photos or do anything else while I’m blocking the only access to something that everyone else wants to take pictures of.

The Busy Bee — Spending all your time running around taking photos of everything rather than experiencing the place.

The Cheese Any silly pose, but especially bad if you’re mimicking something in the background.

Patrick posing in an awkward pose to mimic the brightly coloured Thai statues in the background

The Cheese

The Loss of Perspective – Posing in such a way as to appear to be interacting with the background.

Diane appearing to be holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Loss of Perspective

I do try to refrain from these practices but I have been guilty of all of the above at one point or another (even The Bad Pad, but only at the request of others since I don’t own an iPad). 

And finally, the Worst Example I’ve ever seen of Bad Travel Photography… Taking pictures of your blond girlfriend who is posing like a model in front of a Nazi gas chamber.

What are your bad travel photography experiences?