Stolen from the Happiest Place on Earth

Hello! I hope you have had an amazing holiday, filled with friends and family, love and laughter and not too many stressed out holiday tears. 😉 We’ve been on an amazing whirlwind and I have to say that tears only came once for me…

Taylor graduated on the 12th. This was of course a huge day in our home. As he walked across the stage at the Portland Convention Center and they announced Dr. Taylor Stimmel I did need a tissue but those were happy tears so they don’t count for my one cry. We have worked for this for 8 years. We sold everything, our house, cars, wakeboard boats, moved across the ocean, left all our family with a 4 month old in my arms – it was all to get to this moment – he worked 12 hour days at the clinics and weekend after weekend at events to get his visit count. Meanwhile I maintained the trenches at home, dried little tiny tears that missed daddy, all while Leah Remillet Photography and Go4Pro grew bigger and bigger every year. But today, today is finally here! Seven moves, 2 more children, 3 states, and a million cherished memories later. We had done it, he had done it! It was a huge day! We took pictures with all our friends we would miss so dearly and grabbed all the kids, with Taylor in his fancy-shmancy robes to get our first family picture as Dr. & Mrs.  … It was a great day, one that would be talked about and cherished not just by us but by future generations as well.

 

We came home from graduation with over a dozen friends and family, ready to celebrate. It was wonderful, the whirlwind continued as we hurried and packed and then left for the airport to go to Disneyland with Taylor’s entire family (18 of us). On day one at Disneyland, nobody pulled out their camera but me, everyone joking that they didn’t need it and didn’t even plan to bring theirs because I had mine. And they were right!

I ran ahead and entered the park before the group so that I could film the 8 grand children walking into the park together. I hung out of rides, one rocket ahead to capture Grandpa and his 2 oldest grandchildren (both 6) as they soared around and around on their first ride. I stayed behind as the last one to board to capture the whole group on the little boat in Storybook Land. I couldn’t wait to share.

On day 2 I used my point and shoot all day, I never even pulled out my Mark II and a few more people dawned their p&s’s too. Our numbers started to dwindle as it grew later and the only people left were Taylor, me and the kids and Taylor’s parents. I had been wanting to do the Haunted Mansion as I heard it was different for Christmas so we dropped the stroller off at stroller parking and headed in with our fast passes.

We came out of the ride and couldn’t find our stroller. I just assumed that we didn’t pay good enough attention to where we parked it, I do that all the time with my car! But after a few minutes we started to realize that that was not the case. The very friendly cast member operating the fast pass line at the ride suggested we try at Pirates. He explained that people sometimes grab the wrong stroller and realize it right about there. He was right… There it was. I was relieved but then I thought I’d better look through it. I almost didn’t because, come on… It’s the “happiest place on earth” for crying out loud.

That’s when we realized. All of the kids new toys that they’d bought for Christmas, their autograph books and my camera… It was all gone.

It was a long night. Taylor’s parents took the kids back to the hotel and we headed to City Hall to meet with the security member and file a police report. As we walked I broke it all down in my head… Toy’s could be replaced tomorrow, camera is insured, autograph-books can be replaced too and heck I figured I could forge the signatures we’d al ready got. Of course it sucked, but whenever bad happens my way of dealing with it is to rationalize and compartmentalize into pieces that I can handle.

I seemed to be doing good with it all until we stood in our next line at Lost and Found to leave a description when I realized that I’d never cleared or switched the memory card from graduation.  THAT’S WHEN I CRIED. My face hot with embarrassment, there I stood in line as other people checked for sunglasses and hats, me – crying over the pictures that I’d never get to see. Everything else was replaceable, the toys, the camera… but the captured memories were not. 

 

So here is what I hope you will take away from this…

1. Your equipment should be insured!! It’s very inexpensive, and you can add a personal policy right to your other insurance policy. I think I pay less then $50 a year. My policy insures that if anything happens, every piece of equipment I have will be replaced, may it be stolen or that I drop it into a lake. From the camera body to the custom strap, it will all be replaced.

2. Carry multiple memory cards! I don’t own anything over a 4GB card for this reason. I don’t like the idea of having too much on one card. I even had 3 more cards with me, I could have switched cards but there was so much room still that I didn’t worry about it. I wish, I wish, I wish I had!

3. Bad things will happen! None of us can avoid it. If bad things can happen at the “happiest place on earth” bad things can happen anywhere. Be prepared with things like insurance, a back up cameras (if you needed it) and with what’s been captured by that camera! You should have multiple forms of backup to protect your images. (Read this post I wrote about Back Up Systems)

4. Look for the Upside. The exact same situation can be seen in dramatically different ways depending on perspective. I truly believe in having an attitude of gratitude. Even thought it sucked, and I did cry… I also tried to remind myself to be grateful for the few iPhone pictures that I have and for all of the other blessings that I have, like the fact that I was at Disneyland with a happy and healthy family.

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  1. Andi says:

    So bad that someone would dare to take things such as childrens gifts/toys. I do love the fact that you can still appreciate the good that the entire time brought. Your mental memories will NEVER fade. Huge congrats to your hubby for his accomplishments.

    Thanks for the tips also. Definitely makes you rethink what you consider to be “safe zones”.

    • Thanks Andi!! I know my memories won’t fade but my 3 year old’s might, that’s the sad part. What we do as photographers isn’t really for the people of now, like most think they are, they are for the people of tomorrow.

  2. Nicole says:

    Wise words. So sorry for the loss of your images. I, too, know the grief of a stolen camera and lost images. But congrats to your family on Dr. Stimmel’s graduation!

  3. Melissa says:

    I saw this on your FB page awhile back. It really really is terrible. Have you thought about possibly putting an ad on craigslist for the area offering a reward for the memory card?
    A very long shot, and not likely to get anywhere but maybe…

  4. Oh, Leah! Such a wonderful life – such a sad story! That is one of my greatest fears. I’m so sorry it happened – thanks for sharing your experience & how important it is to prepare for the bad things that can happen so they hurt less.

    Your experience reminds us how priceless every image is. It’s amazing how we (and our clients) can take for granted the beautiful images we have, filed away somewhere. But once they are gone, we really realize their worth. That’s why it’s so important to get them in print – up on the wall, in albums, books, etc. I offer a Look Book with EVERY image from the session – it’s a favorite amongst clients.

    I had a client rush up to me at the grocery yesterday with her disk in hand, frantic and in tears because she had lost the second disk. I immediately comforted her and let her know I had multiple backups of her images and that it was no problem for me to get her a new copy. Her face immediately looked relieved. Our job is more important than we sometimes give it credit for!

    Happy New Year!!

    • AMEN SISTER! You are so right and I think it’s important that we remind ourselves of that. I have a collage of framed images in my office, and the images I chose were to remind me of something important. Two of the images are of clients that passed away. One was 18 and the other a brand new mom, 26. Those images were also at their funerals and it reminds me every day how important what I do is!

  5. Leah I am so so sorry! Did the school have a hired photographer there that you can purchase prints from? Congrats on graduation and best wishes to a bright future ahead!

  6. Jenika says:

    My heart BROKE when I read the part about the memory card being gone. I am so sorry that happened! 🙁 (Though I felt a tiny surge of relief when I read “the camera is insured….” but you’re right, doesn’t replace the important.)

    I’m so sorry but way to find the positive and to contribute your story as a learning experience to the photography community.

    Congratulations to you and Dr. Stimmel!

  7. Kim Larsen says:

    I can’t believe that this happened to you, Leah! I can’t even imagine the kind of person who would steal those things from a stroller at Disneyland! I hope that the camera & card are found and returned to you! One thing that I would add to your list is to write your contact information (an email address or phone number…NOT an address!) on your memory cards. This way, even if the camera is lost/stolen, hopefully the person who finds/steals it will have the decency to turn in the card and you can get it back. It’s a long shot, but I’ve heard of it happening before. It also helps in case you just accidentally drop a memory card while you are out somewhere or on a shoot. And if you never plan on selling your camera, you can always have your name or something engraved on it so that if a thief tries to pawn it, it would hopefully be recovered.

  8. heres atip says:

    Wait a second… what about the tip NEVER LEAVE YOUR VALUABLES UNATTENDED!? Disneyland is a THIEF’s happiest place on earth. Its sad of course but a little common sense goes a long way.

    • You made me laugh out loud! That’s a pretty good tip and you’re right, none of this could have happened if we hadn’t left the stroller unattended. I’m still not sorry that I did though and the next day I did it again… I was making memories with my entire family and that is more important to me. I believe in good people, and I live my life seeing the good. Yes, bad things happen, bad people are among us but I couldn’t live my life worrying about that. I prepare myself the best I can (i.e. insurance) and then live fully knowing that bad things are not void from me but that it’s okay because the bad things have made me better.

      • justaresponse says:

        I personally would never leave a $2,000+ camera unattended. It’s horrible that someone stole it and
        I feel for you. But at the same time, don’t leave your valuables alone. If you can’t bear
        the thought of taking a bunch of stuff on a ride or having a husband/someone stand with
        your stuff, then don’t bring it. Toys n such I wouldn’t care as much about, but never would I leave
        my camera unattended in a crowded area – I don’t even leave it unattended when it’s just me
        and a few friends out at a park.

        If you feel the need to be all-trusting of people and believe that no one will steal your stuff…
        then you probably shouldn’t whine about it when people steal your stuff.

        Hopefully someone will have the decency to return the memory card.

        • I don’t mind at all hearing your opinion. I love that we all get to have a voice and there is truth to what you’re saying, but I do not tolerate when people choose not to use kindness. Not in any situation and certainly not from someone who attempts to assume power and entitlement by hiding behind fake names and email addresses. This is a blog. The point is that I share my life, my thoughts, me. If you don’t like what you read, you most certainly do not need to.

  9. Mary Boyd says:

    I was just so emotional reading this post. I was elated reading about Taylors graduation and hearing about those memories captured. Then I was blissfully happy hearing about all the wonderful Disneyland memories. I was angry to hear that your stroller was robbed, then I cried too! I hate when hard working people get taken advantage of. Unfortunately it happens too often. It’s nice to see your positive attitude about everything though. It would have ruined my day and possibly whole trip. Great tips and great example of the right way to look at things.

  10. amanda mann says:

    Oh NO!!! That’s awful! This is a great reminder for me- sometimes I’m too trusting and think things like this doesn’t happen:( Only in a perfect world… Have a good New Year’s!

    • If you have a moment, read what I wrote back to ‘heres atip’… I don’t think that’s such a bad thing Amanda! We focus on the good in the world, maybe that makes us to trusting but I’d rather that then to be the other side of the coin! 😀

  11. Nicole says:

    There’s also this: http://www.stolencamerafinder.com/

    Another long shot as far as finding the pictures goes, but…you never know.

  12. Morgan says:

    I am so sorry that happened to you! I would have never thought that someone would steal out of someone’s stroller at Disneyland. I live your attitude and that you won’t allow the people that do bad things affect your life and the way that you live it. I think that you should set up a photo shoot with your family at the university and have Taylor get dressed up in his gown again. I know thy wouldn’t be the exact pictures but at least it would be a way of documenting that event. Congratulations by the way. That is such a huge accomplishment for your husband, you, and your kids. It was a sacrifice but so worth it!

    • Thanks Morgan! That’s a fun idea! 🙂 It’s really okay, we have a couple snap shots and we had a couple more days to capture more memories at the park. The people at DL were genuinely surprised that it was stolen. There were dozens and dozens of other strollers at that particular stroller parking and hundreds through out the park. I don’t believe that this is a common occurrence, the main point that I want people to take from this is that it’s really easy to get your gear insured and when you have it insured you just don’t have to worry as much.

  13. When I read your post my stomach was in knots for you. That is one of most worst fears is losing pictures of my family and my clients. A few months ago, I had two backup hard drives go bad within a week of each other. I never imaged it would happen like that, but it did. Thankfully one of them would work for 10 minute increments and I was able to get them on my computers’ hard drive. I was in the process of doing this when my other hard drive decided not too work too. I remember the knots in my stomach and calling my husband in tears, but thankfully I eventually got them all saved. I still struggle with the whole backup thing. I love your outlook though and I always want to believe in the good of people too. I hope by some miracle you get at least the memory card back. Congratulations to your husband…what an accomplishment! I always enjoy your blog. Have a wonderful New Year!!!

  14. Elise says:

    I am SO sorry! My heart sank when I read that your camera with all your graduation pics was stolen. My husband graduated from Chiropractic school on the 10th of December and I know what a milestone it was for him and our family and how cherished those pictures are. I’m glad to hear you at least have a few snapshots from another camera and that you’re staying so positive about it. It is such a great reminder that things like that can and do happen, it’s just too bad that you had to experience it for us all to be reminded. Congratulations to your husband and your family (I know what a sacrifice it is for everyone involved) on graduation!

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