For a few minutes after the splash, Jana LeVitre hoped she could get her camera back from the bottom of the amazingly clear waters of Lake Tahoe.
The Pentax camera was, after all, waterproof.
But when somebody on the sailboat told her the water below was 150 to 200 feet deep, she reluctantly bid adieu to a collection of more than 1,000 photos and videos taken over five years.
“I was really bummed. I lost a lot of memories that day,” LeVitre said of sailing on the lake straddling the Nevada and California border in September 2011. “I realized I’d just have to remember them in my mind. I never expected to see them again.”
But last week, she saw an image she had lost — on her Facebook page.
“Is this you? Or a very close look-alike?” asked the Facebook friend who posted the photo.
Stephen Garnett was just hoping to catch a lake trout when he ventured out with a friend for some fishing Jan. 19 on Lake Tahoe. He ended up hooking a fishing story that stretched all the way to South Jordan, Utah.
The day did not start well. Garnett was trolling about 8 a.m., when he felt what he thought was a hit from a fish. As he started reeling, the line went slack; it had snapped.
He found a different reel with line and put out a new lure while passing over the same place where he had felt the bite. The two were about a quarter mile from shore near a place called Cave Rock and fishing their lures about 200 feet deep along the bottom.
Garnett again felt the sensation of a fish biting, but it was not as strong. He reeled up the line to see what was happening.
“It looked like seaweed and then I saw the shininess of it,” Garnett said from his home in South Reno. “I got it up and dangling from my hook was this camera. Well, at first I thought it was a cellphone.”
Garnett didn’t have long to ponder his catch. His buddy had also snagged something interesting.
“He had actually hooked my line that I had broke the previous run,” Garnett said. “We started dragging that up and on the end was a 3-pound mackinaw [also called a lake trout].”
Around 2 p.m. and with four fish, the anglers called it quits. Garnett was eager to get home and share his catch.
“He didn’t say much; he just had fun, and handed me the camera and said, ‘Look what I caught today,’ ” said Jamie Clark, a hobby photographer and Garnett’s wife. “It was a wild tale, not about what was lost, but what was caught.”
The couple laughed and then realized the memory card was still in the camera.
“We said how funny it would be to put the card in our computer,” Clark said, “that there was probably some wild spring break party photos or something like that.”
They did find party photos, although not so wild, of families and friends enjoying another large Western water — Lake Powell. There were typical family photos and some of a girls’ lacrosse team with “Riverton” across the jersey. There was also a selfie taken just before the camera went for its dip.
Clark decided the photos were special and needed to be returned to the owner. She posted them on her own Facebook page and figured her chain of friends would help spread the word.
“At the very most I thought the camera had been there since last fall. The first photos I looked at were from 2006 and they went up until September 2011,” Clark said. “There were 1,065 photos and a handful of videos. I took two photos from each year and posted them on Facebook.”
Christopher Jones, a friend in Utah, shared the photos on his Facebook page and that triggered a couple of responses.
LeVitre’s friend posted a photo from the sunken camera on her page that showed LeVitre with her mother and a cousin. The Riverton Silverwolves Lacrosse page also showed a photo of a girls’ team, asking “Who took this picture?”
LeVitre is not a big Facebook user, so the post from her friend sat on her page for a while before a daughter called on Jan. 24 and told her to look at it.
“WHAAAAAT THE HECK! YESSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WAS MY CAMERA! YAAAAAAAY! Seriously, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES!!!!???!!!,” LeVitre responded to the photo on her page.
That was just after noon on Jan. 24. By that evening, LeVitre and Clark were on the phone laughing about the crazy story.
“Most people wouldn’t go out of their way like that. I so appreciate their efforts,” LeVitre said. “I need to tell thank you to a lot of people.”
The camera, and its memory card, is headed back to Utah, and LeVitre has plans for her old friend.
“I want to shadowbox it and put some sand on the bottom and have it in my house,” she said. “It will be a reminder of the fun story and the great people who made it happen.”
A bit of mystery remains. It appears that at least one photo was taken after the Pentax fell into Lake Tahoe.
“That is pretty funky. Maybe the pressure from the water activated it,” LeVitre said. “Or maybe a fish is really into photography.”