Last month I was approached by my good friend and fellow photographer Ann Torrence to take an outdoor portrait of her for her soon to be released book. She wanted a natural looking image to be used in the About the Author section of the book. We needed to take the picture before April 18th. The reason for the timing of the session was that Ann was preparing to embark on a Colorado River rafting expedition and would be cutting her hair extremely short the next day (and by extremely short, I mean BUZZ CUT short!) and wanted her portrait to portray her with her hair at a normal length.

After a bit of discussion, we opted for taking the image along Highway 89 (the subject of Ann’s book) in downtown Salt Lake City. I envisioned an image with her standing in the middle of the street with the background showing the highway (State Street in Salt Lake City) leading up to the capitol building. Ann’s idea was a picture of her along the highway with the Salt Lake City City-County building in the background. We shot both versions and had planned to let blog readers vote on which one would be used in the book.

Now for the Knucklehead part.

After our short streetside photo session, I re-packed my gear and we hopped into my car for the short ride back to Pictureline to drop Ann off (we left her car there). I then went about my normal routine for the rest of the day with my gear stowed in the trunk of my Saab – forgetting all about Ann’s images.

My standard routine after a shoot is to copy the images from the memory card to my redundant external harddrives. In this case, I got busy for the remainder of the day and did not do so (big mistake #1).

The next morning I had a portrait session scheduled in the studio with one of my models Kylee. When she arrived we chatted a bit about the images we were going to shoot while I finished prepping my gear. Without a bit of hesitation while we were talking I grabbed my 5DmkII and instinctively formatted the card (big mistake #2). Now had I remembered that Ann’s images on that card I could have pulled the card immediately and used another card (big mistake #3). Instead, I went on with the shoot not even remembering the Highway 89 outing from the day before.

Kylee Headshot
Kylee’s portrait from the next morning session

Later that afternoon when copying the images from the day’s shoot I had what can best described as a Panic Moment. We’ve all had them. It is the moment that you realize that you’ve made a major blunder and suddenly the temperature in the room increases what feels like 20 degrees. It was at this moment that I remembered Ann’s pics were on the freshly formatted card I used for Kylee’s shoot. It was at near the same moment when I realized that Ann was also sporting a new Buzz cut in preparation for her trip and a re-shoot was out of the question for at least 3-4 months.

Trying not to overreact, I remembered that I had previously purchased software to rescue a corrupt memory card. The software is DataRescue’s PhotoRescue and I blogged about it back in 2007. Even though my memory card was not corrupted, I decided to give the software a run to see what it could find on the card. The good news was that it found and recovered about half of the images from the shoot. Even better, the ones it recovered were the pose/background shots that Ann preferred.

Disaster avoided!

Last week Ann telephoned to tell me about her trip. It was at this time that I came clean with her about our photoshoot and my knuckleaded move. I’m happy to say that I have never heard her laugh as hard as she did when she heard the story. Whew!

In light of this, we have instituted a new policy for the staff at Legacy One Photography (umm, that’s only me). Before any cards are formatted the photographer will take a moment and review the images on said card.

Now if anyone wants to make me feel better, take a moment and share one of your Knucklead stories in the comments. If I don’t see any I guess I will go on thinking I’m the only one who does these things :)