Help Jeff Repair His Camera!

(NOTE: On 4/29/14 at 12:04AM PST: Updated goal from the original $1227, for repair, to the full $2400, for replacement, after passing $1227. We're now going for the highly preferable Option B. I'm truly overwhelmed and humbled by this amazing support!!!! THANK YOU!!!! I wish I could fly around the country and hug every one of you.) 

Over the last several years, I have faced several painful losses, both personal and financial. But none have been quite as devastating as the day Mother Nature took my most valued possession from me.

Perhaps a lot of you know me, but my name is Jeff Lewis and I am a 22 year-old atmospheric science student at UCLA and founder of landESCAPEphotography. Over the summer, I'm a backcountry Park Ranger in Sequoia National Park. I'm also the president of the Photography Club at UCLA. I'll be graduating in just over a month and it is my dream to become a full-time photographer. But I have just encountered an obstacle that I cannot overcome alone.

When I bought my Canon 5D Mark II last year, I could have sworn to anyone that I'd never give it up for the world. On my recent trip to Yosemite, however, Mother Nature thought differently.

I had been spending the weekend chasing and photographing moonbows (lunar rainbows formed by waterfall spray) in Yosemite National Park when my camera began taking pictures uncontrollably. The only way I could get it to stop was to turn the camera off. I couldn't review the pictures, change settings, or anything else. Nothing like this had never happened before. The area was under a moderate mist (constant, but by no means heavy) and I suspected that a few drops of water might have sneaked in through the shutter button or power switch. The camera then shut itself off and wouldn't turn back on, so I removed the battery and CF card (found no water in the compartments) and turned it off. As soon as I got home, I sealed it in a 10-pound bag of rice to dry out. I was running so strongly on fear at this point that I failed to notice that I'd left my backpack and wallet at the trailhead. They were never seen again. I left the camera in rice for over three days, hoping for the best "“ but I turned it on three days later and found it dead. I took it down to the local camera store and they refused to even look at it, assured me it's dead and done from water damage, and that I could only send it to Canon, who they said would also refuse to service it because the repair would cost more than the camera was worth. So there I was, sending away my most beloved, prized possession, quite literally shipping off my dreams in a box, waiting with fingers crossed for the verdict from Canon.

In the box I sent to Canon, I included a hand-signed letter, not unlike this one, and a print of "Chain Reaction," one of my favorite images, with my fingers crossed for mercy. I knew I couldn't afford a repair in excess of a few hundred dollars. A few days later, I got the email and was quoted at $712 for the repair. Included in this was a 20% discount off the regular repair price, and an offer for free return shipping, because of the letter I included. But they could offer no more. So, I'm still stuck. My camera has quite literally been the embodiment of my dream.

In 2011, as a sophomore in college, I founded my photography business, landESCAPEphotography, compiling a portfolio emphasizing my images of the wild backcountry, in places where few people have ventured, and perhaps none have ever photographed. I recently won Adobe's Moment to Shine Competition and was one of the 12 student artists as the face of the global year-long Creative Cloud advertising campaign. My images have appeared on the cover of the official UCLA class planner book two years in a row, as well as many campus art galleries. My images and story have been front-page leads in the Daily Bruin, the official UCLA newspaper, among others. For two years, I've been the mentor for 40 members of the Photography Club at UCLA, of which I'm currently president. This is my dream and I will never let it go.

Right now, as a full-time student, I'm poor. I have a side job as a teacher that barely pays the bills, and the only money I make off photography is from the occasional contests, private workshop, and a few lucky print sales. The rest is donations. UCLA has long since refused to pay its students for the use of their images. My family will support me going into things like academia, but if I decide to follow my dreams as a photographer, I'm on my own.

So here I am, writing to you because my dreams have come to a screeching halt: my camera has fallen ill and I desperately need it fixed. I can't imagine a life without it, but I can't afford to replace it. That's why I'm stuck. Yes, yes, I know, insurance would have saved me. Yes, I know, the plastic bag I was carrying in my backpack would have prevented it all. Hindsight is 20/20. You never think this kind of thing will happen to you until it actually happens.

Imagine that you're walking around your city and encounter a street performer. If you sat down to watch the performer, wouldn't you feel a moral obligation to put a few dollars in their hat? So, to those of you who have been watching me perform on social media, by watching my photos on Facebook and Flickr, by using them for free as your profile pictures and desktop backgrounds, the time has come: I need you.

It's easy to view the world as a place where we're all on our own, but there will always be the occasional time when each of us needs to get down on our knees and beg a stranger for help. This is one of those times.

Thanks for any and all help you can give! The minimum donation this site allows is $5.00, but even if you just have a couple quarters you want to give me in passing, every little bit helps.

(Note: I captured the image at the top of this page, "1:03AM," one day before my camera died. The above image, "Seven Hundred Twelve," is the scene that killed my camera. In the vein of the film photographers who first inspired me to photograph Yosemite, I have kept much of the fine-grain noise from the original image. This image was meant to be viewed in print, not on a computer screen, meaning you can expect a deviation from the classic "clean" digital landscape "“ that's how I intended it. "1:03AM" is a cleaner" shot for those who prefer that.)

Line-items for Option A (Turned down due to sufficient funding for Option B)
Camera repair: $712
Shipping: $25
Insurance for two years, after which I'll hopefully be able to afford it: $200
Rewards (prints for you all): $200
Subtotal: $1137
7.9% fee to GoFundMe and WePay: $90
TOTAL: $1227

If I were funded for Option A, I would happily take it. My gear would be restored just to the way it was. However, there's one financial aspect we have to consider: my camera, as an older model, is only worth $1250 and it's perhaps not economical to perform this repair, even if I have the funds. Thus, I also present Option B, which includes a completely new camera and foregoes the repair.

Line-items for Option B (DONE!! WE MADE IT!!! THANK YOU!!!!)
Replacement camera (Canon 6D, edit: REFURBISHED, on major sale: $1291
Shipping my old camera to Canon: $25
Insurance for two years, after which I'll hopefully be able to afford it: ~$600 (updated from previous lowball of $200)
Rewards (prints for you all): $300
Subtotal: $2224
7.9% fee to GoFundMe and WePay: $176
TOTAL: $2400


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Jeff Lewis 
Los Angeles, CA
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