Coral Bells and Memory Card Loss

I’ve never before appreciated the wisdom of the advice to use smaller-sized memory cards rather than a single larger one.

What happened is this. I was photographing these very small, equisite flowers (coral bells, heuchera, also called alum root) in the shade bed of our garden. Conditions were perfect. There were big water drops on the tiny flowers, the lighting was bright cloudy, saturated to the max, but not windy. In short, conditions were perfect for extreme macro work with flowers and water drops.

I used my Lexar 2 Gigabyte Compact Flash (CF) high-speed (80X) card, which stores a bout 180 RAW images from my Nikon D70, and almost filled the card. I had used this card without problem for about a month. Work done, and thinking I’d made some first rate captures, I headed inside to the computer.

My first intimation of disaster was that when I loaded the card in my Compact Flash reader, my computer didn’t see it as a drive. Well, I thought, the camera seemed OK with the card. Planning a direct USB connection, I put the card back in the camera. But when I turned the camera on, instead of displaying the number of exposures, an HA appeared on the display.

If you ever see the dread HA error code on your Nikon dSLR, you are basically hosed. It’s an error accessing a memory card, with the expanded message “This card cannot be used.” Possible causes: the card isn’t formatted, the card’s contacts are dirty, or the card “hasn’t been approved by Nikon.” Unstated, but in this case the bottom line: “For reasons unknown, your expensive and powerful memory card has turned into toast.”

As a penultimate last-ditch measure, I tried the Image Rescue software that came with the Lexar card (I think Lexar bought this worthless piece of software from Corel). But to my not-very-great surprise, the software couldn’t see the card at all. If you can’t even see something, how can you rescue the data on it? You can’t.

This was on a Sunday. An online chat service was available at Lexar technical support. I told my story. The service rep wrote me up an RMA number and said they’d replace the card and try to retrieve my images. No guarantees, but damned nice of them to try.

What are the morals I’m deriving from this sad-but-true story? First, I have my fingers crossed that Lexar may be able to recover my photos. Second, I’m slightly inclined at this point to favor Sandisk CF cards over Lexar. I certainly wouldn’t buy a really off-brand card. Third, I will keep to smaller cards. Why put all one’s eggs (photos) in one basket (memory card)? And, overall, I’m now paranoid about memory cards in a way I haven’t been about anything since I accidentally opened (and ruined) a box of my unprocessed 4X5 negatives. Yes, these computer dudes are fragile too.

In the afternoon, trying to make up for lost work, I photographed the coral bells again (photo above). I like the reflection in the water drop in this photo, but these are artificial water drops from a hose, not raindrops. And the lighting was sunny and bright, not overcast saturated. And the wind was blowing. It seems that perfection is only to be found in one’s lost photos!

This entry was posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops.

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  1. […] e specialized rescue software supplied by card manufacturers failed to recover the images. Here’s the original story. The images were lost forever, but Lexar did replace the card. Yesterd […]

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