One thing all 199 previous entries in this countdown had in common was that the photos were all taken at some point in the past nine years on one of the two digital cameras I’ve owned. When I was a kid, I had a 35mm camera that I was occasionally allowed to have a roll of film for. The last time I ever used that camera was on Photo Night at Busch Stadium in 1995, where the Cardinals players came out on the field for fans to take close ups of prior to the game. I took my roll’s worth of player pictures… and then after the fourth inning of the game that evening, a typical summer thunderstorm moved through causing a rain delay. As I was waiting it out on the concourse with lightning crashing all around us, I decided to take the ultimate no-risk gamble….
If you remember film photography, you might recall there was a twilight zone near the end of each roll where you might be able to take a couple of extra pictures than what the packaging on the film says you’d be able to. The counter on my camera was one or two over the 24 slots I was guaranteed to have on the roll, so there was a chance there may be one more bullet left in the camera. I wandered up to the railing where I had a view outside the stadium and aimed for the skyline. I reflexively flinched when I saw the sky light up and hit the button. It turned out to be the last photo on the roll…
Another aspect of film photography that the digital age has made us all forget is the fact that we really had no idea what we captured until the prints were developed. And the package of prints that came back with this roll had lots of posing ballplayers, but no nighttime shot. Not that I was too surprised…
It was a year later, the following summer, when I was going through those pictures again and remembered trying to take the photo during the rain delay. I decided to take a peek at the negatives and noticed that the very last frame had a very vague discoloration like it could be a photo and most notably a very thin crack-shaped line of black going vertically down it. It seemed like there was something there, but the processors apparently skipped over it thinking it was just a blank image. I showed it to my Mom, and she took the negative to the Mecca where I’d start working two years later and left instructions to print the very last frame, regardless of whether there was actually anything there or not.
There was something there alright….
Photo taken: August 19, 1995
On July 18, 1996… eleven months after I’d taken it, I found out that in one try, with one shot, with the final photo I ever took with a film camera, that I had captured a bolt of lightning! It just happened to strike in the direction I was pointing, I just happened to hit the button at the right time, and somehow managed to keep the camera steady enough to get the bolt in crystal clear focus! I’ve taken many amazing photos that I’ve shared in this countdown that I am extremely proud of… but THIS is my ultimate once in a lifetime photo. The best photo I’ve ever taken and likely ever will take….
I hope you all enjoyed the look at the top end of my photo archive over the past six and a half months!!!