“Check it twice, do it once.” This was the advice I was given as a young man and funny enough it’s as true today as ever. Recently I was fortunate enough to be in a place to witness the total eclipse of the moon under relatively clear dark skies. Aside from the choking pollution of the Kabul winter I couldn’t have asked for a better night. I had all my gear ready, location picked out to take advantage of a distant ridge line and the local security were given a heads up so they didn’t shoot at me for standing on the roof. I started pushing the shutter button as soon as the full moon came into view.
What a night, right? For someone who’s motivation for Different View Photography was capturing memorable scenes from around the world, what could be better than shooting a lunar eclipse in Afghanistan? Everything was going perfect and that should’ve been my first clue. Well…it seems somewhere during my shutter clicking frenzy I saw fit to reduce the quality of my images from “highest quality” to “basic”. Well, to be more precise, I didn’t exactly choose to but while changing the ISO settings as the available light faded I blindly pushed the wrong button, spun the dial, and reduced the image quality settings of the camera.
Now the kind folks at Nikon actually anticipated people like me and made an indicator in the viewfinder, as well as the rear display, that both clearly indicate the image quality. Throughout the eclipse I had plenty of time to stop and check the settings and correct my mistake. Now don’t get me wrong, I checked the tripod, horizon line, focus, ISO and aperture almost continuously. I even took a few moments to wipe the smoke and dust from my lens, but I failed to take as much as a passing glance at what should have been step number one…the basic settings. As near as I can figure, in my rush to capture what should’ve been a truly epic event I simply became confused by the definition of “basic”. I mean hey, who couldn’t confuse “basic” with “highest quality”. As obvious as it seems, the truth is I failed to double check myself. I put too much confidence in knowing I had set up the camera settings before ever stepping outside. There’s an old saying to explain some mistakes like this, “Inaccurate conclusions from accurate observations.” My camera didn’t suddenly switch the menu settings, and in that split instant, the meaning of “basic” didn’t change. So my observations were accurate. What did change was my conclusion, or my understanding, of those observations. Hey, we all have moments in our photography that we just can’t get back. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting a celestial phenomenon or the fleeting moment of innocence in a child’s face during a portrait shoot, life doesn’t have a rewind button. So until we’re perfect, I guess it’s time to remember the old advice to check it twice and shoot it once.