The Cookie that Killed the Shot


Glowing Narrows: Provia 100F | 1.3 minutes @ f/45 | Nikon 300mm f/5.6

Since I switched to large format, I have found that there are so many things to forget.  One small lapse in judgment can have a profound consequence.  While on a hike in The Narrows of Zion National Park, I found a location that had a magnificent glow during a very brief 20 minute window.  I made a note of the location, then returned the next day with the camera equipment that would be necessary for the photograph.

I  started the hike at 5AM (an hour before sunrise) so that I would arrive at the location with enough time to setup my camera, and start metering the scene. This went as planned, and I kept an eye on the clock waiting for the ideal moment to capture the photograph.  11:45 AM was the ideal time to shoot.  As the moment arrived, I started the 1.3 minute exposure.  When the exposure was complete, I realized that I had miscalculated the bellows extension factor.  For those who do not speak photogeekanese, an English translation of the previous sentence would read  “I *#%&@ up, and my image was too bright”

I knew that I would have the same opportunity to take the shot the next day at the same time, so I packed up my gear (I had only taken one sheet of film), and planned my return.  When I got back to camp, I unfolded my light proof film changing tent, removed the exposed film from the film holder, put it in a light proof box, and replaced it with a sheet of fresh film.

I set out the next morning an hour before sunrise, and made the hike once more.  Several hours later, I arrived at the same location, and setup my tripod. I metered the scene, made the exposure, then I was done for the day.

I made a note of which film holder had the new, properly exposed, film.  Several days later,  I concluded my trip, and returned home to San Diego.

My goal was to have the lab process the overexposed photo first, and request that it be processed a bit darker to help maintain the detail in the bright areas.  When I received the film from the lab, It came out acceptable, but it was a bit brighter in the highlights than I would have liked.  In an emergency, I could likely tweak the tonality and use the shot.  However, it would be a bit of work.

I sent the second sheet of film to the lab for processing.  This is the film that would be properly exposed.  It should give me beautiful tonality, and good color, even in the highlight areas.

To my surprise, the lab informed me that the film holder was empty.  There was no film.

What?  How could this be? I had spent about  10 hours that day in the Narrows, I had waited for the ideal light, I had metered the scene to perfection, all that without a sheet of film in the film holder.

I specifically remembered unloading the film from the holder, then going to my truck to get a cookie, then…..

Could it really be so absurd? I was so distracted by that cookie that I actually forgot to load a new sheet of film into the holder?

Maybe my title is a bit misleading.  The cookie definitely cost me that particular shot.  However, I did find that the overexposed shot seemed to contain enough tonality to make for a good print.  As I examine the film, I can still see enough tonality to make the shot work.  I scanned it on my epson flatbed, and that is the image displayed at the top of this post.  The shadow tones are a bit harsh (dark) in this presentation, but there is in fact plenty of detail in the shadows. The scanner just has a hard time holding that detail. If I were to have a high quality drum scan performed on this piece of film, I think it will make for a lovely print.

Damn you, delicious cookie.

One Response to “The Cookie that Killed the Shot”

  1. Gary Thursby Says:

    That is hilarious! well not really after all the time and effort lost. Hey maybe now you have that Hasselblad you can carry it for a back up! I was in a vacation in Hawaii at rainbow falls taking shots on my 35mm film camera. I was like wow I am getting alot of extra shots out this roll! I checked and of course no film in the camera argh! I just forgot and at least you got that cookie! hehe

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