Dancing in the dark

“Damn!” I said under my breath. I’m sitting in row “L” at a school auditorium watching a dance recital and for some reason my camera is acting up. I press the shutter but nothing happens. This is complicated by the extreme darkness.

When I arrived, I was told that pictures were not allowed, so I reluctantly left my camera in the car. Sitting during the first half, I learned that flash photography was not allowed, so during the intermission, I quickly retrieved my camera and 70-300mm lens, set the ISO to 3200 and, with a pretty decent view from my seat, eagerly awaited the second half.

The house lights went down and the stage lights came on. I took a single shot to get some idea of the exposure, made some adjustments and was ready. Well, I was ready, but my camera wasn’t. It did everything but take the picture. No matter how hard I tried, there wasn’t enough light to see the buttons on the camera. I paused, closed my eyes and reminded myself I knew where everything was.

At first I thought I had a focusing problem. The camera won’t fire a shot if it can’t find focus, so I changed the setting on the lens to manual. Now is that the first or second switch on the lens barrel. Wait, there are three switches. What’s third one for? The first one is for manual, so I switched that but no luck. The “info” button is on the bottom right, so I pushed this and found some odd areas flashing at me. I had no idea what they meant, but they led me to believe I had a problem with the memory card.

My D300s has two memory cards, so I switched to the other card without any luck. Since I had only a test shot, I decided to format the card. When I tried, it told me I had a memory card fault. Not good. I tried formatting the other card and got the same error. Odd. I popped open the chamber, took out both cards and re-seated them. Worked!

All this diagnosis was done in the dark, sitting between my mother-in-law and my wife, before the first act was completed and I think the best shot I took was in that act. I have been using the D300s for at least a couple of years and didn’t realize how well I knew the controls. I am reminded of my days of processing film, pushing my hands into a light-proof bag to manipulate film into the developer tank all by feel and memory. Opening film canisters was the “other” use for my bottle opener.

You never know when something odd will happen. I still don’t know why the camera decided to malfunction, and it has been great since, but I am now a firm believer in knowing how to operate my equipment with my eyes closed.

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