Cavalcade of Fail

Posted 2011.09.13 21.25 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

This past weekend I was excited to get out of the house and take some more snapshots with my ‘new’ Hawk-Eye box camera. For good measure I also brought along my Minolta Autopak 700 rangefinder.

It was a super-bright sunny day, one of those bright-blue-sky-hard-shadows days, that mean sunny-16, aka EV+15 for the camera exposure. So my Hawk-Eye was loaded with some ISO 100 film which I figured could handle being overexposed and would also be ok if there were some clouds later.

I picked up my sister and we set out to visit a small waterfall that we’d read about. It was supposed to be an all-but-unknown yet very easily-accessable site.

Trail, Trees, Falls

When we arrived, we discovered that the trail was not long but it was a little difficult, and involved some hiking through the woods, and some slightly steep ups and downs. I was completely unprepared of course, wearing simple sandals — I had not even thought to bring my safety hiking sandals with the good treads and the ankle support. Also, someone else forgot to invent them.

Still, after the anticipation and the drive and all, we pressed on. And of course, I managed to trip and send myself flying. I remember as I started going over, very briefly thinking “Oh shit! The cameras!” but there was no chance to do anything about it.

I had been carrying 80-year-old Hawk-Eye in my hand, while the Minolta was around my neck on a strap. Then the Hawk-Eye was off doing some travelling of its own: first completely airborne, but then hitting the ground, it started rolling end over end a little ways down the path. The Minolta meanwhile, tethered around my neck, just swung outwards and met the hard ground face-first, a split second before I did nearly the same thing.

Amazingly, the octogenarian No.2 Model C was utterly unscathed in this incident. I don’t think it even picked up any new scratches! Try that with your fancy new DSLR… The Minolta also somehow escaped uninjured. It was stiff to wind on which at first made me think something was buggered, but then I remembered I was using a 35mm reload 126 cartridge which was itself rather stiff. So in other words, both cameras were just fine!

I was not so fortunate. I came down really hard on my right knee, and managed to wrench my back. The same back that I broke when I was 18. The same one that now suffers arthritis. My left leg was not injured in the fall, but ironically it was already buggered up for reasons yet-to-be-determined. Suffice to say that from above the knee on down, it’s swollen, stiff, and in pain. Admittedly I was already kind of hobbling along before the fall.

Come to think of it, I probably shouldn’t have bothered doing any hiking. But I really wanted to get some interesting pictures, and I find waterfalls to be really interesting!


Undaunted by pain and mobility-impairment, I opted to push on. My sister and I travelled the rest of the way and soon enough we found the waterfall – we could hear it first of course, before we spotted it through the trees. It was cute – supposedly a 12 meter cascade, though it did not look that high to me. Our viewing point was from above the falls, and we could not see any safe or convenient way to get closer so we did not try.

Composing Digitally

Happily I snapped and wound my way through a roll of film (8 exposures) in the Hawk-Eye, then did the same with the Minolta (12 exposures). My sister used her shiney new compact digital Nikon. I noticed that her camera’s flash was auto-firing now and then, and thought to myself how odd it was that the new-fangled compact auto-everything cameras are always blinking their flash even when it isn’t necessary.

Once we had both had our fill, we proceeded back the way we came, following the trail back through the trees, to the car.

Originally, our plan had involved visiting a second nearby waterfall. Indeed, we drove on to that next location. Upon arriving however, we could see this spot was much more busy and crowded than the first. By now I was also receiving the detailed damage reports from various parts of my body (i.e. the pain from my fall was starting to catch up to me) so we both agreed to pass on the second location.

Missed the Dog

By the end of the day I was back at home, eagerly processing my films as fast as my battered legs could carry me. With much excitement I pulled the roll of 120 film from the tank, to be greeted by … a long nearly-blank strip of film. Only the very first exposure had come out – a shot of my sister and her dog, from before we started out. The rest was very nearly completely blank.


Sun?! Bright?! I was expecting over-exposures, if anything. Not… nothing. Then it hit me.

Sure, the sun was bright and the sky was clear. Out at the road. The waterfall was deep in the woods. Deep. Trees. Cover. Canopy. Dark. Crud! I had taken my ‘visual light metering’ way back when we had started. Maybe it was the fall, or maybe I was just stupid, but I completely failed to clue in to the fact that the heavy forest canopy completely changed the lighting. Duh!

Dark and Fuzzy

The exposures from the Minolta are passable because I had set that for about EV+12,  and even at that they are a bit thin and flat. It was probably more like an EV+9 or EV+10 under the trees, which of course meant that the old Box camera, even with ISO 100 film, was essentially blind. Dammit!

Out of all 7 shots I took with it at the waterfall, only a single image could be coaxed from the film – and it is a very dark crappy foggy ugly image.

Between the injury, the pain, the fact that I can barely walk right now, the blank film from the Hawk-Eye, the underexposed negs from the Minolta, and the fact that the whole expedition was for taking pictures, it has left me feeling pretty down again. I keep thinking that it might cheer me up to go on another picture-taking expedition, but at the moment I’m about one step away from needing to find subject matter that’s wheelchair-accessable. And still feeling dumb stupid about screwing up all the exposures, like maybe I should just give up the photography thing.


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