This happened to me: Saint Petersburg thieves steal lens off front of tourist’s camera (video)

I was in Russia for a couple of weeks at the start of August, and the trip went well (you can see a few pictures on my tumblr). That is, it went well until my last night. Thieves stole my 35mm lens right off the front of my camera in the metro in Saint Petersburg. The red ring on the front of an L lens might as well be a neon sign.

It’s a known attack in the city, but after speaking with the police, seems to be relatively new. You can see how quickly the crime happens in the video above.

I’d spent the afternoon near the water outside the Peter and Paul Fortress (site of this Cartier-Bresson image) and, as the sun went down, joined the crowds getting back on the metro at Gorkovskaya Station. Getting on to the metro, I put my bag and my camera across my body in front, as is my habit in crowded situations. The train car doors opened and suddenly I was being jostled more than I should have been for the size of the crowd. I saw hands going for my camera, and instinctively reached to protect camera, camera bag, wallet, and phone. It was too much to protect and the 4 or 5 guys, all dressed alike, kept gently jostling me back and forth. That was enough. I finally pushed through the crowd, but then felt that some weight was gone. I looked down, and my lens had disappeared. The pickpockets had quickly run out of the train car right as the doors shut.

There was a bit of distance before the next station, and once there, I found a metro worker and got the police involved. The thieves were no doubt long gone and I would be leaving the country the next day, but I needed a police report. I don’t know how the process would have gone if I didn’t speak Russian, but I have to say the metro police were quite pleasant to deal with. They took down information about the crime, noted descriptions of the guys who surrounded me (all wearing baseball caps, buzzed haircuts, nondescript gray t-shirts), and had me look at a book of mugshots. They had apprehended one person in the area about the same time as my theft, but I couldn’t make a satisfactory identification.

I consider myself lucky. I didn’t get hurt, my gear was insured, I didn’t lose my passport, and so on. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Russia (this was my 4th time in the country, and the first during which anything bad happened) or Saint Petersburg, but I’ll stay a bit further away from crowds in touristy areas next time.

I’ve got to commend Package Choice, my gear and liability insurance company, for handling this as well as they did. Less than a week after the theft, I had a replacement lens in hand. I’ve never filed a claim with any insurance company before, but this was easy. Pay a small deductible, provide a few documents (police report, proof of ownership), and they did the rest. I shopped around a bit before settling on them a few years back, and I couldn’t find anyone else that offered the same service and coverage. From the get-go, they’ve provided domestic and international coverage for theft and accident, domestic liability (and a little international, or more if you pay extra), and very quick responses on everything from updating gear lists to getting same-day insurance certificates for free to getting my lens replaced in this case.

Try out a Think Tank Retrospective bag for free

Think Tank Retrospective bag
Think Tank Retrospective bag

I’ve been using a Think Tank Retrospective 7 bag for the past 6 months, and I couldn’t be happier. Now, Think Tank is offering a free test drive of the bag (and others in the series). You get the bag for a couple of weeks and decide whether or not to keep it. Return it with a written evaluation of the bag, and you won’t be charged. Or decide to keep it and pay for the bag. There are a couple of restrictions: you must be in the US, you must use a credit card (not a debit card), and you have to sign up for the test drive before June 15.

The bag isn’t perfect, but it’s the best I’ve used. It’s small and has a nice variety of pockets. The flap closes with velcro (not my favorite), but comes with flaps to cover up the velcro so the bag is silent in quiet situations (this is great!). The strap is really durable and the strap pad doesn’t get in the way–the strap on my previous Domke bag, for instance, frayed to the point of breaking pretty quickly. And the bag comes with an attached rain cover so you don’t need to worry about bad weather. I’m not particularly fond of the divider system, though. Instead, I replaced the dividers with a 2×2 insert from my Domke bag, but others I know like the Think Tank dividers.

Do yourself a favor and try out the bag for free. Or, if you’re planning to buy anything else from Think Tank, click through this link to send a little love our way with your purchase.

By the way, if you click through our links to buy anything here, we get a small cut of the sale. It’s a way for us to keep the lights on here at dvafoto. Thanks to those of you who have clicked through us in the past! Consider bookmarking this link to Amazon. It doesn’t change prices for you and gives a small portion of the sale to dvafoto.

1.8 Gigapixel Cameras Fly on US Drones

Gizmodo has written about the “World’s Highest Resolution Camera”, with 1.8 gigapixels, which is being developed for the US government. They shared this clip from the PBS show NOVA which recently broadcast an episode called “Rise of the Drones”.

This is the next generation of surveillance. … It is important for the public to know that some of these capabilities exist. – BAE Systems Engineer Yiannis Antioniades, who designed the sensor

I know some folks working on drone-related journalism and drone-related photography. This should give you some more ideas about what might be possible. And I can’t help but think of what extreme ‘Google Street View’ style projects could be possible from a camera also known as “Wide-Area Persistant Stare’. Maybe some day we’ll see such a thing, for now it remains a classified US Government program.

Scott also recommends having a look at the Dronestagram project, which compiles Google Maps aerial landscapes of the sites of drone strikes. You can follow them on Instagram or on Tumblr.