I’ve been in this industry for the better part of a decade now, and I’ve had my fair share of knocks in those nearly ten years. My first camera, a Nikon D40x, was destroyed in my senior year of high school when I got bowled over by a group of football players who crossed out of bounds. In college, I blew up a 500w light bulb, and lost all the audio to a very high-profile shoot when I didn’t realize that the camera I was forced to use (which I had never used before) recorded the audio and video separately and returned it before I realized my mistake. I shattered the zoom ring of my primary lens, my 24-70 f/2.8, when it rolled off of a bench onto concrete in the middle of a shoot, ruined the audio at an event when I forgot to switch my audio in from Mic to Line, and I can’t tell you how many times I have mis-exposed or mis-white balanced both photos and video. Most of these can simply be chalked up to experience, and learning to know better in the future, which I most certainly have.

However, a few weeks ago, the day that all visual media professionals dread finally came to pass.

One of my fellow members of my BNI chapter, a family law attorney, is running for a judgeship in Lehigh County and asked me to provide all of the visual media assets for her campaign. We started with candid photos and video at her candidacy announcement celebrataion, and then booked two days of portraiture for her marketing material. The first day went wonderfully; she was very pleased with the photos, which I returned to her the next day. On the second day, the production went just as well… Until I got home. As I was leaving the shoot, I text messaged a photo to my friend of one of the shots on the back of the camera, so I knew the photos were there. However, when I returned home to edit them, not a single shot from that day was on the card. Every single shot from the previous day was there, but nothing I had just done was anywhere to be found.


I had been running this memory card, an 8gb Lexar CF in my Nikon D700 since the day I bought it, and had never had a single issue with it. However, it is fairly common knowledge that when cards fail, it’s not typically a gradual process. I had gotten a bit cocky over the nearly six years of owning that card, thinking “I have a high-quality memory card, it won’t happen to me”. Nothing can describe my terror, however, when I was proved wrong. Still nothing described my sheer horror when a free recovery tool failed to recover a single of the missing images. My amazing assistant texted me from her day job with the link to another piece of software to try; Wondershare Data Recovery. While it did cost money, it would allow the user to run the utility to see if their images were recovered, and required the purchase to recover and save them to the computer. Imagine my relief when the program recovered every single one of my images. I wasn’t thrilled about having to spend the money for both the software and a new memory card, which ate through a significant portion of my profit from the shoot, but for me there was more at stake here than money.


In my BNI group, reputation is everything. I had built my reputation as a consummate professional, so seventy dollars was a small price to pay to maintain that reputation. The funny part of this story is that, upon telling my client the harrowing tale of her images at the next meeting, she laughed and said she would have been more than happy to go back out and re-shoot.


Oh well, lesson learned. Now, I not only have a fantastic piece of software in case the issue ever recurs, but I can also offer recovery service to my client base. After nearly ten years of work in this field, I have officially gone through the most harrowing rite of passage for visual media professionals… and managed it with only a moderate amount of hysterics.


Break a lens,



P.S. Lehigh Valley friends, please check out my friend Melissa’s website for her candidacy. Over the few days I worked with her, her level of passion for the position she is striving for and the care and respect she has for those she will serve became immediately apparent to me. Check her out (and have a look at my images) at www.pavlackforjudge.com.

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