Recently on one late morning, I was standing in my office in St. John’s Newfoundland. In 12 hours, I would be hopping on a plane and heading back to Mongolia. In my hand, I held my tried and true Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II. It was misshapen, no longer supported screw on filters or a lens cap, and the zoom ring had developed a recurring death rattle. Somewhere between Baffin Island, Canada and Antarctica the name ring that caps the lens had come loose. At 16mm, it’s falling into frame, making for some unfortunate heavy vignettes. It’s also an easy point of entry for all the dust my next trip to the Gobi Desert will inevitably cough up.

My dilemma on this morning that I would address: one way or another, I would have to Dr. Frankenstein, MacGyver, or Batman this lens back to life. Again.

Gaffer’s Tape. Krazy Glue. A hammer. Those blue elastic rubber bands found on broccoli bundles.

These are some of the “tools” I have used to fix my wide-angle workhorse in the past. A year ago, while traveling with sled dogs in the Canadian Arctic I dropped my body, no, not just the camera, but literally my body which was at the time carrying my camera, with the 16-35 while trying to get in front of the team. Predictably, the dogs were undeterred by my gear lying haphazardly in their path. The lens took the brunt of the 12 dogs, three humans, and the sled. 

Later that night by lamp light, I bent the filter ring back into place with my Leatherman and, undeterred, then proceeded to get some great shots of the Aurora. About six months ago aboard a zodiac along the Antarctic Peninsula, I used Gorilla Glue and medicine tape from the first aid kit to reattach a polarizer and lens hood after an unexpected run-in with some brash ice.

The point I am trying to make is this: I want a lens I can treat like I do my boots; and I love my boots. I paid good money for them, replace them only when necessary, and can fix them in the field with whatever is on hand. The Canon EF 16-35 f2.8 II is that lens for me. I have dragged it across Greenland, through the Arctic, up mountain faces, and pointed it directly at hurricanes. That wear and tear most definitely shows. The result is not pretty, but it gets the job done. Every year a newer, better, sharper, do-everything-for-you lens hits the market. But I don’t need my gear to make me coffee, I just need it to keep up. This Canon wide angle zoom has taken everything I’ve put in its path, literally, and somehow keeps showing up in my bag before each new adventure.

Looking down at the dents, scratches, and cracks I know I will never be able to resell this lens. But I can’t help thinking… isn’t that the point of good gear?