Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I took a stunning photo of Dylan at the Overture, and the gods punished me by erasing it
It was a powerful moment. Dylan finished his set (his second of the night), the stage went dark and he was gone. Shouts and waves of applause swept through the darkness in Overture Hall. Everyone was standing, a few people holding up their lighters, flickering hopefully. The applause went on and on, a crescendo of anticipation.
And then the master reappeared with his band and they rocked into Jolene and Like a Rolling Stone. Everyone's hair glowed in the backlight, the crowd stood and swayed with the music and leaned into the light, as if hypnotized by the shadows on the wall of a cave far bigger than any Plato could imagine. It was a transcendent moment, bathed in white light. I had taken a few photos earlier, but they were nothing much. This was going to be my keeper: I set the zoom at 28mm, exposure comp at -2. Perfect -- the people, the stage, and that awesome backlighting. I framed the shot in the LCD and pressed the shutter. There! The green light went on as the camera saved the imageto the card, and a quick preview flashed on the screen, perfectly exposed and crystal clear. I had it! Except I didn't.
Signs in the lobby had told the audience that cameras and cellphones were all supposed to be turned off during the performance. No photography. No video. Sure, we understood. Of course, much of the audience, myself included, simply took that injunction as a challenge to their manhood (or womanhood). From the beginning, you could see photos and video being taken. A few uncool people couldn't figure out how to turn off their flash, or didn't care, and made jerks of themselves. But mostly you just saw LCDs lighting up briefly as people captured their memories. In front of me, one young woman found a ledge perfectly positioned to hold her camera still as it shot video -- until the usher came over and told her to shut it off.
At first, the ushers were vigilant in their law enforcement duties, swooping down like owls in the night on the lawbreakers. I kept a low profile, because I didn't want to get hassled. At first, I found a way to hide my camera by interposing my jacked between it and the nearest usher, who seemed to be reading my mind and looking my way a lot. But that was awkward, and ultimately unnecessary. The ushers gradually tired of chasing offenders, and perhaps more to the point, got caught up in the music. Their eyes were riveted on the stage, the same as everyone else's. So when I saw my opportunity, I held the camera high and got just what I wanted with no interference -- a perfect memory frozen at the end of a perfect night. I waited to play back the photos until we got home. I could hardly wait, but I had the memory of that image, and knew I had nailed it.
We arrived home and finally I played back the contents of my card. There were the autumn pictures I had shot earlier in the day. There was the downtown Madison at night picture I took on the way to dinner. But no Overture pictures, no Dylan pictures. Nada. They were never written to the card. I tried reading the card on different computers but could find nothing. Was the card bad? Maybe it was -- I tried a few test shots in the house and they didn't write to the card either. But after I restored the camera to its original, default settings, it wrote to the card just fine. I took the camera and card to the Camera Company on the Square, where I bought it recently. They couldn't figure it out either, and hadn't heard of anything similar. I left the card there to see if they could somehow bring something back with their data recovery software. They weren't optimistic, and neither am I.
I love my Nikon P7000, which I bought a few weeks ago, and I've already shot thousands of frames with it. I can't imagine what I could have done wrong that would have caused this. But the camera is running firmware Version 1.0, and it's a complicated new software package. It has locked up on me a couple of times while changing settings. Ken Rockwell (consider the source, and take this with a grain of salt) says the firmware is buggy and needs an update. Maybe he's right; maybe the camera's operating system had a brief nervous breakdown, as some combination of settings triggered a buggy malfunction. Who knows?
But most likely, I think this is simply a matter of the music gods punishing me for presuming that I could capture my Dylan experience with a mere camera, and a point-and-shoot at that. It was sheer hubris, and the gods punished me. It's as simple as that.