Not a Good Day for Photography in the Friedl Household

I once complained that I had ruined every photo before I even took it by accidentally leaving the camera in low-quality JPEG mode (instead of raw mode, which gives much latitude in recovering from exposure mistakes).

Today I did myself one better.

After driving 2½ hours last night to a hotel near a particular spot where I wanted to make a sunrise photo with the family, we got up at 5:15 and by 6am we had parked and were ready for the 30-minute hike to the location, when I took my first shot of the day, of a picturesque ridgeline with a dull warm 40-minutes-before-sunrise light beyond.

The photo that popped up on the back of the camera was stunning: the sky that seemed almost black in person was now in the photo a deep rich blue at the ridge with a lovely gradient to black at top. The day was starting off exceptionally well, except....

... except that unfortunately, I always have my cameras set to not show each photo on the back of the camera immediately after capture (because it wastes battery), so the photo suddenly popping up meant only one thing: the camera was in demo mode like it would be at the store, because I'd forgotten to put in a memory card. Doh!


The camera and lenses all went back into the car, and we made the hike sans camera. (Fumie and I both had iPhones with full batteries, but both died from lack of battery within 10 minutes after reaching the destination. I speculated at the time that the battery might have been consumed faster because of the cold, but I didn't really believe it because it wasn't that cold... just a touch below freezing... but both batteries suddenly returned to half full when we got them back to the warm car.)

I guess it just wasn't my day for photography.

All 9 comments so far, oldest first...

Instead you were able to live the moment in full and just admire the sunrise 🙂

I don’t understand the statement. 🙂

Actually, as the sun was about to rise, everyone gathered at the edge of the location (the ruins of an old mountaintop castle) to see the sunrise, but I thought “that’ll just be boring and bright… the real ‘wow’ will be on the mountains behind us”, and indeed, the moment the sun came up, people started to notice how pretty the scene behind us was and the crowd quickly drifted over. —Jeffrey

— comment by Stefan on November 29th, 2013 at 9:45pm JST (10 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Oh no, that’s the worst!

The first thing I did when I got my D7000 and the D40 was to turn on a menu option where you lock the camera if no memory card is in the camera. I don’t know which camera you’re using- D4, D700, but if it’s available on a D40 I’m sure there’s one for the D4 or D700 too.

This wouldn’t have helped me, except to hide how beautiful that first shot I tried to get turned out. But I’ve read stories of folks who leave the “automatic back-of-camera image review” turned on, who then don’t notice the “no memory card” note. Those folks would have been saved by locking the camera as you describe. —Jeffrey

— comment by Alvin on November 29th, 2013 at 11:39pm JST (10 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Always, always, always keep a spare and possibly cheap card somewhere. In your wallet, on your keyring, in your car, anywhere not next to your camera.

— comment by Nicolas on November 30th, 2013 at 1:15am JST (10 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

I meant you were actually not ‘distracted’ by taking photos, but instead could simply enjoy the moment without attempting to capture it.

I still don’t get it… what is this “without attempting to capture it” that you speak of?

(I understand what you’re saying, but a photographer’s brain just doesn’t work that way 🙂 ) —Jeffrey

— comment by Stefan on November 30th, 2013 at 2:56am JST (10 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Recently I took a day off work and traveled to Chicago to take some interior shots at the The Driehaus Museum. It’s a lovely; beautifully restored 19th century mansion in downtown Chicago and they currently have numerous Tiffany glass pieces (both windows and vases) on display in various rooms. I’d never been there before and was really blown away by the place. The lighting was just awful, but they allowed photos, which I was happy about. Unfortunately, when I got home (2 hour drive) I realized I had left my camera (D800) in about the worst quality jpg mode the camera would allow. I had no idea. I normally never use that, but a day before I had taken my camera to work for some macro photos to email to someone in (guess where…) Japan! (We purchase hearing aids from a manufacturer in Tokyo.) Anyway – what a disappointment! I felt so stupid. Lucky for me, I can make the trip again. The Tiffany stuff will be there for a few months or so. Your story really made me smile! – Incidentally, although I never get the chance or spend the money to travel – I once had a chance to visit Tokyo several years ago to visit the company we do business with. I went by myself for a few days of technical training and then took an extra week to visit Kyoto for fun. Wandering around Kyoto for a week was possibly the most fun I’d ever had. I fell in love with Japan. Soon after that trip I discovered your blog. I enjoy it and return to it often.

— comment by Kevin on November 30th, 2013 at 5:08am JST (10 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

When we photographers don’t have a (complete) camera, we take photographs with our minds. I find those photographs are often much better than those taken with a camera, though they are more difficult to share…

Along those lines, I’m often disappointed when I get home and actually look at the awesome photos I thought I took. —Jeffrey

— comment by Mark Sirota (Philadelphia, PA, USA) on December 1st, 2013 at 2:36am JST (10 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

I’ve had two versions of that experience. The first was in 1980 and I’d had some wonderful opportunities to makes wildlife images that day – including the white-tailed deer doe who came down to drink right across the creek from me. About 3:00 that afternoon I realized there was no film in the camera.

About a decade later I was on a back highway in rural New Brunswick very early on a Sunday morning and I had just wound off the last of my film and loaded everything in the car. Drove about 300m down the road and there were THIRTY-SEVEN Great Blue Herons hunting in the same small lagoon.

No misadventures with cards… Yet.


— comment by Mike Nelson Pedde on December 1st, 2013 at 2:53am JST (10 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Don’t feel bad, you have a lot of company – I did the same things on my first game drive in Africa. Very embarrassing!!


— comment by Dan on December 3rd, 2013 at 8:02am JST (10 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Its a miserable feeling, isn’t it. I have done the same type of thing several times. We once drove over 40 miles to hike to the top of a mountain in the southern Appalchians that had spectacular 360 degree views from the top, only for me to realize as were a third up the trail that I had forgotten to bring my spare battery and the one I had was dead. So all the pictures were taken with my wife’s iPhoner while she laughing at me the whole time…

— comment by Dave on December 11th, 2013 at 11:43am JST (10 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink
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