When one decides to make that leap into photography and invest in their first camera kit, it’s near impossible to fathom one’s gear obtaining any scratches, dirt, cracks or dents. The body must stay pristine and protected. The lenses must remain capped when not in use. The sensor will absolutely be free of any debris.
Photographers early in their journey always have the best intentions when it comes to protecting their investment. Anyone would argue that they absolutely should. However, as Ansel Adams is quoted to have said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” In other words, to get the shot, one is going to, eventually, have to get themselves and their gear dirty.
Cameras have to go where the photographer goes. Eventually, that precious and pristine camera body and that even more expensive lens gets bumped around, dropped and submerged (in a housing, of course). After a while, camera gear becomes as common as one’s wallet, phone, and car keys.
And, as with our most carried and common goods, it’s only a matter of time before something gets cracked, broken, stolen or, dare we say, lost.
Just ask photographer and Samy’s Camera customer, Arthur Galvao.
In 2016, Galvao and his mother were on a shooting trip in Joshua Tree National Park. As one does over the course of any shoot day, there are multiple setups and lens changes. Upon returning to their hotel, they noticed that they were one lens short – a Leica silver 35mm f/2 Summicron lens was missing.
For those not familiar with West Coast natural wonders, Joshua Tree is a true desert wilderness. Considering the many tourists that visit, along with the vastness of the park itself, Galvao and his mother deemed the lens lost.
They figured if the wildlife didn’t destroy it, Joshua Tree’s searing heat, strong winds and occasional torrents of rain would render the lens useless. The odds of that lens finding a new owner in the form of a random and lucky park visitor seemed slim to none. Anyone would think that the $3,000 Leica lens had, sadly, met an untimely end.
But, as with all good stories, it doesn’t just end there.
Let’s fast forward to two years later.
Jorgen Loe Kvalberg, vacationing in the States, decided to head west and explore the Joshua Tree area. During his visit, oddly enough, he came across a Leica silver 35mm f/2 Summicron sitting peacefully on a rock in the middle of the desert wilderness.
Kvalberg decided to carefully pack away the lens and contact his local Leica store upon his return home – to Norway.
The Leica store in Norway contacted the Leica factory in Germany in order to get more information about the lens. The factory discovered that the lens was part of a digital Leica M-P with 35mm f/2 Safari Edition that was shipped to the United States.
Leica USA was contacted next. They determined that the very same M-P Safari Edition was shipped to Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles.
Leica USA then contacted their representative for Samy’s Camera, Ebi Kuehne. With the serial number handy, Kuehne contacted Samy’s Camera’s Los Angeles Store Manager, Fernando Del Vaglio, for help tracking down the lens’ rightful owner.
All that was left to do was give Galvao a call with the uncommonly good news. Goes to show that teamwork makes the dream work.
“I called Arthur,” said Del Vaglio, “and inquired if he had ever lost a Leica lens while shooting in the desert. Arthur was simply floored! He couldn’t believe it! I then asked Ebi as to what the next steps would be in this saga, and Ebi told me that he would personally retrieve the lens from the Leica factory while on his personal Christmas vacation in Germany.”
Upon his return, the lens was entrusted to the hands of Del Vaglio to be reunited with its original owner.
“This is the kind of dedication to Leica and to Samy’s Camera that I have grown accustomed to over the years working with Ebi Kuehne,” said Del Vaglio. “It’s been a great pleasure getting to know him, working alongside him, and watching his consummate professionalism in action.”
“Reuniting Arthur with his lens brought great joy to me, not only as Samy’s Manager but as Arthur’s friend,” Del Vaglio continued. “Arthur is one of our best Leica customers; his passion for the brand having been ignited by our dear-departed friend and Samy’s colleague, Tibor Szilagyi. It is an honor for me to continue Samy’s Camera’s relationship with Arthur; and, to help him fulfill his passions as a photographer.”
You want to know the real kicker of this story? Upon inspection of the lens, Kuehne determined that a simple cleaning to remove some accumulated dust was all the Leica lens required to be as good as new.