Last week, I was hired to photograph some people.
No, that's not the unbelievable part. Hang with me. On my business blog I told the abridged version of this story, but here I will tell you all the sordid details. Stick with me to the end because it does get interesting!
The people were attending a high class party hosted by a magazine and a newspaper. The party was held in a mansion in a neighborhood about 30 minutes from my house. The mansion was over 12 thousand square feet (15 thousand by one account) and sold recently for 7.8 million. It was, by far, the biggest house I had ever seen, and that is only including the parts I saw, which was about 1/4 of the house.
(by the way, all of these pictures are up on my business blog, and they are much bigger there if you are interested in getting a closer look)
It was an amazing opportunity; something that only came about because Hubby happened to meet the right person at the right time. Hubby worked a real estate party one day, and the next thing I know I was rubbing elbows with some of the wealthiest people in Austin.
I have to get better at handing out business cards! Doh!
Anyway, as I am sure you can guess, the event caused me much anxiety and worry. I wasn't so much worried about the photography part - that is really just a matter of having the right equipment and knowing how to use it. The gray hairs and racing heart came from thinking about the logistics of it all. I get slightly freaked out for some reason about the driving there, being on time, getting through the gate, finding a place to park, and not forgetting anything or tripping in an oh-so-graceful way as I walk toward the house. Those things will almost do me in just about every time. They are the kind of things that make me decline opportunities like this normally, but this time, Hubby managed to talk me down and I accepted the gig.
I managed to get there without any issues. Thankfully the gate was open and I was able to follow someone in. Parking was pretty much anywhere you could find it, and because the street itself was still very undeveloped, most everyone parked on either side along the curb. I found a space and grabbed my gear and walked to the house. I was completely blown away by the size of it. I met up with my contact, was introduced to his PR person and several guests, and then proceeded to do my job. I was hired to come in for 1 hour and photograph the guests. Part of the job was to also get each person's name and keep track of who was in each picture. I thought I had a good system; I was planning to use my iPhone to record the names and image numbers, but after trying it with the first couple of people, I wasn't sure the audio recording was going to be clear enough with all the background noise (turned out it was fine, but I didn't know that until after). So, I decided to go the old fashioned route and write down all the names and image numbers. Thankfully I brought a printed copy of the guest list, and many of the people I photographed were on that list.
I was also experiencing some anxiety over the caliber of people in attendance. I don't exactly own any current, fashionable clothing, expensive jewelry or pricey shoes. I was afraid my attire would be less than acceptable. I found a very simple but flattering black blouse and black dress slacks, and paired it with nondescript black boots and a bright camera strap. I was the epitome of photog fashion I tell you! lol! I also found a very pretty set of chandelier earrings in my jewelry box (that were about 10 years old and very cheap) and wore those as my one striking accessory. I pulled a thin strip of hair back from each side of my head so it wouldn't fall into the camera and that was it.
Wouldn't you know, one gentleman actually complimented me on my "absolutely beautiful" hair, and his wife complimented my "stunning" earrings. She asked me where I found them. I didn't have the heart to tell her (I am pretty sure I bought them at NY&Co), so I replied that they were many years old and hiding in my jewelry box. She commented on how fashionable and in style they were (who knew!) and that she really loved them.
The hour was up before I knew it; everything went great! I wrapped things up and walked out front with my contact. We chatted for a moment, and then he left to go back inside to mingle with the remaining guests. The event was to be over soon, and at that point it was about 8:15. Most of the people I had photographed were getting ready to leave or had already left and the sun was about to set. I decided to get some images of the house and the beautiful cars out front before I left, mainly so I would have something to show in my blogs without having to publish random shots of Austin socialites. ;)The cars on display were a particular hit. They were simply gorgeous! I had a lot of fun with Hubby's wide angle lens. After the above shot, I walked around the driver's side of the Audi (the black car) so I could get a picture of the Porsche from the front. I squatted down and composed the shot. When I pushed the shutter button half way on my camera, the lens focused. I pushed the button the rest of the way, and instead of taking the picture...
the viewfinder flashed "FOR" at me over and over.
Now even if you aren't a photographer, you can probably guess that when a camera starts flashing messages at you it probably isn't good. I was momentarily stunned at the flashing, and so I tried pushing the button again.
FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR
I pulled the camera away from my face and looked at the LCD screen. It read something to the effect of "Card cannot be read, please reformat. Do you wish to reformat now? Yes No"
I am pretty sure that at that point all the color drained from my face. I tried to steady my hands as I turned off the camera, turned it back on, popped out the card and the batteries - anything to get that dreaded FOR to stop flashing at me. Nothing I did worked. So, I slowly put the camera in my camera bag, pulled out my cell phone, and made a desperate call to Hubby as I walked back to my car.
There was no going back to the party to re-shoot. Most of the guests had already left. And the mortification involved in that would have been too much for me. So, I prayed and prayed and pleaded with God to let me recover the images.
Hubby's response was not much comfort. He told me I needed to reshoot because I likely lost the images. Not possible. Not an option.
As a photographer, this is my biggest, scariest nightmare come true. I was devastated.
I drove home, my mind all over the place and my hands shaky on the steering wheel. It is a wonder I even remembered how to get home at that point. But made it home I did, and when I walked in I handed the camera to Hubby and bee-lined it to the fridge for something to calm my nerves. He tried plugging the card into a card reader and then into our editing computer. "Card cannot be read, please reformat." He plugged it into our laptops and each time received the same message. He plugged it into our other camera, again the same problem. The card was, by all accounts, pretty much fried.
Thankfully, Hubby had remembered reading that the very same thing happened to one of his riding buddies, so he looked up the forum thread to see what the responses were and if there was any solution.
Someone has suggested trying an online software called Zero Assumption Recovery. They had a free download that would retrieve lost information on the disk. I found the site, downloaded the software, plugged in my card and said a prayer.
I had only taken about 80+ images at the party.
The ZAR found 320 image files on the card.
The majority of the images from the party were recovered, but a few of them were toast. Pieces would be missing or the image would be tiled - it was truly bizarre. Thankfully, I made sure to take at least two images of every group I photographed, so I ended up with at least one good image of everyone. And, because it recovered 320 images, they were all out of order and renamed. I had essentially lost my guest name and image number match up system.
Thank GOD that He gave me a touch of photographic memory. By looking at my handwriting on my guest list, I could remember where I was in the house and who I was talking to, based on the way I wrote on the paper and some of the guest's unusual quirks or style. I was able to remember and match up all but 3 couples, and after a quick email to my contact with their images he replied with the information I needed. SHEW!
I am pretty sure I aged about 10 years that night. And my gray hair, well it has multiplied ten-fold. Time to go see the colorist!
Hopefully I won't have to experience that again any time soon. I am not sure I would survive it.
And if this ever happens to you or someone you know, I highly, highly recommend ZAR. Even if you've reformatted your memory card, it can still recover many of the images (I read somewhere once that you had to reformat a memory card at least 3 times before it removed only 80% of the information). It is truly a Godsend!