Well, bad luck just seems to follow me around some days. And it seems to be following even more closely lately. After losing my entire hard drive a week or so ago, yesterday I lost my camera. Well, I didn't lose it, but it no longer works. After shooting the shuttle launch as far as the separation of the SRBs, I turned my camera back towards the pad to get some pictures of the lingering steam and smoke. I didn't notice anything odd until the camera quit auto-focusing. I took my eye away from the viewfinder to see a message on the screen. Error 99, it said. Turn the camera off then back on, it said. But that didn't help, it just came right back. I'd seen an error 99 before when I rented an incompatible lens. Pulling the battery out for a second worked then, but not this time. I tried the battery, the battery holder, the lens itself, the memory card, nothing made a difference. Once I got back to a computer, I loaded up the pictures from the memory card (for a while I was worried that none of my pictures would be there, but they were OK). The last dozen or so pictures on the chip were obscured, as if something was in front of the lens, but I knew there had been nothing there while I was shooting. The three pictures you see here are the last three shots from the launch.
After much messing around with the camera itself and some internet searches, I finally discovered that it's a shutter problem. Digital cameras have shutters just like regular cameras. The shutter exposes the image sensor to light for the prescribed amount of time, just as it would expose film. Well, when I peek behind the mirror in my camera, I see the closed shutter when I should normally be able to see the image sensor. I've got a feeling the price of fixing the camera is going to be all too close to the price of a replacement camera.
I suppose I should be happy that my camera didn't break until after the launch. Five minutes earlier and I wouldn't have gotten any of the awesome pictures I did. But I'm still unhappy that it's broken. Anyhow, stay tuned for some of the more awesome final pictures from my camera.