On Iwo Jima My Camera Froze and My iPhone Reset

I took a picture of Iwo Jima veteran Ron “Rondo” Scharfe on Mt Suribachi and my camera locked with lens extended. An hour later coming off the black sands of the landing beaches I was locked out of my iPhone and the pictures there deleted.

The one trip I wanted everything to be smooth my tech melted down. Everything was charged, backup batteries were in tow. Dots, Lines & Destinations Episode 76 included a discussion on how many picture-taking devices is too many. Seth carries 5. I had 3 and was darn glad for the 3rd.

Also in this series:

My camera a Canon S100. A good pocket-size camera with GPS and manual controls that I have still not learned. I have used for several years with no issue. It turns out the S100 is plagued by a lens error problem that Canon repairs for free. After I snapped that picture on Mt Suribachi I heard the telltale error sound and the camera powered down with lens extended. No amount of jiggling, shaking and restarting would help. Next device up.

I was using my personal Moto X phone as I descended Mt Suribachi and walked the quiet eastern side of the island. As I looped around and headed to the landing beaches and commemoration ceremony I got the foolish idea to use my new corporate-issued iPhone 5S since that camera is reputed to be high-end for a phone.

It was foolish because I have never owned an Apple product and did not know the peculiarities of a device that assumes you know what to do and doesn’t bother explaining itself.

Since I received the phone a few weeks ago I had been using fingerprint ID. Coming of the beach my thumb was gritty from the sand and sweaty. After several failed attempts the iPhone demanded my 6-digit PIN. Uh-oh. I had only used it once and could not remember it in the heat of the day. I tried some likely combinations and none worked. As the attempts mounted it progressively locked me out longer. What I didn’t know is my company had enabled an iOS setting that does a security wipe after 10 failed PIN attempts. Never had heard of such a feature and wouldn’t have imagined a phone would do irreparable damage like that without warning. Again, my fault for not knowing my device.

I thought I had the right PIN when the device appeared to start. To my horror it went to device set-up which requires wi-fi. It was a nervous flight back to Guam to get wi-fi and confirm the inevitable that all my photos from that day had been lost. I tried several 3rd-party recovery programs to no avail. Fortunately most of the photos had been on my other devices and Apple can’t erase my memories of the beach.

Know your device before you rely on it. Don’t end up like me.

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11 Comments on "On Iwo Jima My Camera Froze and My iPhone Reset"

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totally cringing while reading this. I usually just have 2 devices on me, but I know a lot of photographers bring two camera bodies for this very reason.


On a related note, my wife and I both had a phones lock up on a recent European trip – which is unusual since new phones don’t normally do that. I knew how to force reboot my moto X but my wife had a meltdown thinking her Iphone was broken. Of course when we got to wifi we were able to look up how to force reboot an iphone and it solved the problem. Always a good idea to look up the force reboot sequence when you get a new phone.


So glad your trip went mostly right, and that you have good memories, if not quite all the photos. It was great to meet you at San Diego FTU. May your next trip be wonderful.

Yes, a lot of corporate IT departments forget to tell users about the consequences of their PIN policies. Doesn’t matter if the device is yours or the company’s. I know more than one person that accidentally wiped their personal phone or tablet (on which they setup corporate mail for convenience thus enabling the policy). They temporarily lend the device to their kid, the kid somehow hits the lock button, then doesn’t know the PIN code to get back in…a buncha tries and then boom, wiped device. Did you check your iCloud account? Maybe your photos are still residing in the… Read more »

I don’t have a corporate phone/laptop and I’d rather not have either one.

It’s a device they own, they control (remote wipe for example) and there’s no expectation of privacy on it since you don’t own it and fully control it.

If I had to use either one or both, I guess I’d be one of those people that carries two sets of devices and only used the work one for work.



I had said that you of all people needed an iPhone… Irony eh.
Sorry bout that.


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