When you travel to some of the world's most beautiful landscapes, it's natural to bring your best photo equipment. Even the most practical-minded business travelers can seldom resist the temptation to pull out their camera phones and preserve Hawaii travel memories; fortunately, with the increasing prevalence of recording devices, this has become easier and quicker than ever.
Moreover, digital camera technology has advanced to the point that it's now possible to capture more scenes, more exposures and even full-motion video in more situations. With miniaturization, the advent of hardy mounts and waterproof cases, skydivers, mountain bikers and other daredevils can provide a vertigo-inducing first-person view of their exploits with a helmet-mounted GoPro, and even a casual scuba diver can take spectacular photos and videos of underwater life with a mid-range Nikon in a water-tight housing.
The explosion of small and easy-to-use cameras does, however, have a downside - more of them get lost on vacation. Sometimes, the loss is due to malicious intent; more often than not, the visitor - overwhelmed with impressions and experiences - forgets or leaves the camera behind in a taxi or bathroom.
And few things can be more disappointing than unpacking from a lovely vacation and discovering that all your pictures and videos - not to mention the valuable camera they were on - are missing in action. While there is some rustic, primitive charm in having to go back to oral storytelling when you recount your vacation to family and friends, we bet you'd rather save a thousand words and show them a picture instead.
Fortunately, all is not lost - there is a number of things you can do to get your camera back.
In recent years, individuals and businesses have created online tools that aim to help erstwhile owners find and retrieve lost cameras. There are many websites where both finders and losers of cameras can post pictures, announcements, dates and times of loss or retrieval, as people do on lost-and-found boards; however, in addition to such time-honored postings, amateur digital detectives make a sport of combing through pictures found on a lost camera to try to identify its rightful owners through circumstantial evidence and clues. This may seem like looking for a needle in a multi-continent haystack, but the ability of internet communities to pool effort and crowdsource a global search has, time and again, surprised even seasoned police and detectives.
Even stolen cameras can potentially be found with the use of online tools - certain camera brands embed each photograph they take with the camera's unique ID number. If the current user of your camera is careless enough to post unaltered photos they took to popular sharing sites like Flickr, certain digital search tools can find the photos that contain your camera's ID, and potentially allow you to find who and where is using the device.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and preventing camera loss is no exception. The obvious first step is to pay attention, have the camera secured to your person with a strap or lanyard at all times, and get into the habit of taking stock of your possessions whenever you leave a public area such as a restaurant or taxi cab.
You can also make it easier for a well-intentioned stranger to return the camera to you if it does get lost - in addition to the old-school traveler's practice of physically tagging their luggage with a contact label, you can write out your contact information on a piece of paper and take a photo of it, in case someone finds your camera and looks through the pictures for clues.
Then, if your camera maker allows you to register your purchase on its website - and most do - it's a good idea to take the time and go through with the process. Registering your electronic device with the manufacturer is a great way to help police track down its rightful owner in case they find it in a cache of stolen property. Unfortunately, most device owners don't bother doing this, which severely limits their chance of getting the device back from thieves and opportunists.
To sum up, while losing your vacation camera with all the fun moments recorded on it can be a truly dispiriting experience, don't despair! With the power of the Internet, you may have a good chance of getting your camera - and your vacation memories - back safely.