Minor photographic disasters of our time
Earlier this week I was strolling around Bushey Park in south-west London when I had my greatest photographic disaster of the year. I found a mob of deer. One obliging stag was washing his antlers in a rather unsavoury, muddy and smelly pool. Just the job, I thought, and fished out the camera of the day, the Leica X1 as it happened, from my Billingham. Mr. Stag was extremely photogenic and he repeatedly dug his antlers into the mud, then rinsed them off in the pool. Not only was he a magnificent beast, he was the perfect male model. Snap, snap, snap.
So overcome was I by the occasion that I didn’t do what I usually do: Check the camera settings. Sure enough, the shutter dial, which I had left pointing to A, had slipped to 1/15s as I dragged the X1 out of the bag. This would not have happened with a more modern camera such as the M, the Q, a Fuji X or a Sony A7. In the past five years manufacturers of mirrorless cameras have worked hard on introducing just the right amount of resistance, not just to the shutter dial but also to the wayward exposure compensation dial that is often on the vulnerable right-hand edge of the top plate.
The photographs were a complete white out, as you can imagine. No chance of recovering highlights because all I had were highlights. For the first time in several years I was presented with a set of shots that were totally useless. No amount of processing could overcome that disaster. Perhaps I should have been chimping midway through the session, but the sun was strong and the X1's primitive screen so poor that I simple didn't think of it.
Naturally I don’t blame the X1. It’s all my fault and I’ve learned a lesson to be more careful with this camera. I recounted the story to Mr.X1 himself, John Shingleton in Australia. His response was encouraging, if not sympathetic:
If you were a committed X1 user as opposed to an X1 dilettante you would know that the first thing you do when you pull out your X1 is to check the two dials. But yes it has happened to me. Many times. Though it has not been an issue since the camera had its rework recently.¹
We live and learn. I now need to pay another visit to Bushey and just hope the deer are again in an equally obliging mood. I suspect, though, that this was one of these moments that could never be reproduced.
¹ John recently lost the spring retaining the battery clip on his five-year-old X1 and sent the camera off for repair. The kindly repairer renovated the Leica and increased the resistance of the two top-mounted dials