One Saturday in mid-October 2015 I decided to take a walk over to my preferred film lab and put some freshly developed black and white negatives in for scanning. My better half had arranged to spend some time with her family that afternoon, so I planned to make the most of it and meander over whilst messing around with a new-ish lens – a lovely Voigtlander 21/4.
I’d loaded some ILFORD SFX 200 the day before and although I still had half a roll left to burn, the light was flat and uninteresting, so not much of a dent was made and my meander quickly turned into a normal (quick-ish) walk.
Close to the lab is an intersection, which I needed to cross. No big deal, I’m a grown man and had crossed it hundreds of times before to get to the mouthwatering Japanese Izakayas (and film lab), on the other side.
I approached the intersection, noted the 20+ seconds left on the green pedestrian light and upped my pace. I got halfway across the road before I was overcome with what I can only describe as a “feeling” of something behind me and to my right.
I looked over my shoulder and bearing down on me was a large, bright yellow cab.
There was no time to react, so I grudgingly accepted my fate and began to swear. Within a split second the car had hit my calves, thighs and back. I flew a bit and landed a few yards away, more in shock than anything else.
What was I worried about in those first few fractions of a second after landing on the tarmac? My camera. It hadn’t been knocked and was being held aloft in my hand but I was pissed.
I spun around to face the car – which had now come to a halt in the middle of the road. I tried to stand but immediately dropped back to the floor like a sack of potatoes…my calves hurt, really hurt.
Adrenaline is a wonderful thing and on my second attempt, I managed to get to my feet and hobble over to the driver whilst screaming the longest and loudest string of obscenities I’ve ever mustered. Forget about grandma, I would have made myself blush had I been a bystander. Speaking of which, I yelled out at a few to call the emergency services and somehow managed to continuously shout at, berate or otherwise demean the driver until they arrived a few minutes later.
I wasn’t a bit concerned about the state of my body. Sure, my back hurt and my calves felt as if I’d just run a marathon or three but I was more worried about the camera and what kind of damage had been caused. I could walk, so it couldn’t be too bad, right?
To cut a much longer story short, aside from discovering that I can be quite funny under the influence of adrenaline *1, I also learned the following things a week or so later:
One: Leica are amazing. I took my camera to my local store and asked them to give it a once over, fully expecting that it would have to be sent to Germany. I had it back in my hands just 24 short hours later. It came with not only a clean bill of health but also a report detailing the results of the numerous and exhaustive checks they’d performed for me (it’s 1/6th of a stop under at 1/1000 sec). *2
Two: I had fractured three vertebrae and would need to wear a brace for the next three months.
Three: I’d somehow managed to take a rather interesting picture mid-flight. I guess that’s what I got for bemoaning the flat, uninteresting light.
Here it is:
I generally dislike airing musings like this in public. I think they’re uninteresting to most and rather self-centred. I’ve decided to post this rare exception for two reasons.
The first is that I didn’t expect to get anywhere near that level of attention or detail from Leica without questioning anything other than the camera in my hand. I handed it over and they did the rest in an unfailingly professional and expedient manner. In fact, one of their engineers took the time to go over their report with me when I returned to collect it. That kind of service can’t be faulted. Thank you.
The second is a little fuzzier, so please bear with me while I muddle my way to clarity. As photographers, I like to think that we are more mindful of our surroundings than most. We’re always looking ahead for that next shot, that interesting scene, that juxtaposition, or just something a little different to take us out of our comfort zone.
Sometimes, it’s the stuff behind us that’s responsible for giving us the moments (photography-related, or not), that we remember the most.
Whatever you do, or however you look at the world, please take my advice: do what you want but don’t kill yourself to take a photograph.
Thanks for listening.
*1 – “What do you mean you didn’t see me?! I’m crossing the road wearing a white shirt and dark trousers…did you think I was a f**king ZEBRA CROSSING?!”
*2 – I got a complete report covering every shutter speed in milliseconds, how far it was off spec and conversion data to fractions. The report also included a list of concerns/notes about the general state of the camera and recommended timelines for getting a CLA. All free and all within a single day.
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