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The Missing Memory Card


Hairy four o’clock plant in bloom.

Photo by Gerry Steinauer

By Gerry Steinauer, Botanist

Like other nature photographers, I often return to a prairie or woodland for another round of photographs. Sometimes it is because Mother Nature does not cooperate — the light is bad or it is too windy to take close-up photos. Other times, the subjects do not cooperate. They won’t sit still, or I’m unable to creep close enough. Lastly, I occasionally do something that is mechanically boneheaded with my camera that results in poor photos or no photos at all. The latter happened
last June.

Dawn broke on the final day of my visit to a Sandhills ranch with ideal conditions for plant photography: warm sunlight, little wind and vegetation cloaked in dew. I was excited, maybe too excited. I grabbed my camera and rushed out the door and up a nearby prairie-covered dune in search of photographic opportunities. Soon, low on the dune, I found a hairy four o’clock in full bloom. I had never before photographed this uncommon wildflower.

I captured images of the plant for about 10 minutes and, satisfied, moved on. Over the next hour or so, I climbed over that dune and to the crest of the next, occasionally stopping to photograph other flowers. Perched on the hilltop, I was ready to call it quits and decided to scroll through the photos and view my morning’s work.

I was shocked to find there were no photos — because there was no memory card in the camera.

Spewing a few cuss words, I quickly realized I did not replace the card the last time I downloaded photos from my camera to the computer. In my rush that morning, I forgot to check the camera to make sure it contained a memory card. I hate to admit it, but this was not the first time this has happened.

Most gut wrenching was the fact that my cherished hairy four o’clock photos were now nonexistent. I needed to reshoot the photos, but the sun was rising fast, the light quickly losing its warm tone. If I did not hurry, the photos would be washed out. It was at least a quarter mile back to the plant and one big question remained: Could I find it in this sea of grass?

I pulled a memory card from my bag, popped it into the camera and started hoofing it. Luckily, when I returned to the vicinity of the four o’clock, I was able to follow my footsteps through the still-dewy grass back to the plant. My new photos turned out fine.

A photographer should feel no shame in having to return to a site and recapture photographs. Stuff happens. It is part of the game. But to forget a memory card? C’mon.