Last year I was looking for new subjects to photograph when I stumbled upon an idea to take pictures of things I could find in the street gutter. I took these photos for several months before finally putting them up on Instagram for others to see. You can also like my Gutterfound page on Facebook and follow along as I post daily (weekdays) pictures.

My method is to only photograph things as they were found. I never move things to get a better shot or otherwise set up my subject. Early morning just after sunrise, and at sunset typically give me the best light. Cloudy days also make for great moody images.

I’ve been amazed at the variety of things that can be found in the gutters. Most of what you will find are rocks and leaves from yard landscapes. But I’ve also found toys, money, spent rifle and pistol casings, and much more.

I Lost All My Photos

Over the weekend I popped my SD card into my camera and went outside to take some macro shots while snow was piling up on objects. I had an interesting composition in view so I was annoyed when I tried taking a couple of sample shots and the shutter wouldn’t open.

I looked down at the camera’s screen and saw a message flashing that my memory card couldn’t be read and might be corrupted or damaged. I didn’t think much about it at first. Maybe the micro card that I use wasn’t set right in the adapter. Or maybe the switch on the adapter was in the lock position.

Neither of the above scenarios was true though. The card should have worked. But when I put it into my computer, it didn’t show up there either. I took it out and pulled the microSD card out of the adapter. I held it up to the light and that’s when I saw the problem. The card had a crack going from side to side right in back of the contact pins.

The card was ruined. I had been using that card to take nearly all of my photos from 2018. There were plenty of pictures that weren’t worth keeping but others were special to me and I’ll miss not having them.

But what about your backups?

Heh, heh, um, about those backups. I work in the GIS / IT world. We deal with massive amounts of data and have multiple backup processes in place to make sure that we never lose any of it. You would think that kind of mindset would follow me home and protect all of my private data too.

I do back things up at home – I promise. But I didn’t back up these photos. Some of them were downloaded over the course of the year but they were downloaded as JPEG files, not the original RAW files I took them in. And there were a lot of images on the card that I didn’t download in any form.

It’s really easy to just keep packing data onto little storage drives with huge capacities. It’s very easy to assume that your data is safe on them. And for the most part, your data is safe on them. Unfortunately, solid state storage isn’t perfect and it can become corrupted. Take my word for it, you have to back up everything.

In my case, the corruption took a physical form. I had left the card in my laptop. It sticks out of the built-in card reader almost half an inch. I moved the laptop and must have hit the card on something. On further inspection, I could see where the adapter had bent, breaking the micro card inside.

The two main takeaways here are:

  1. Don’t leave thumb drives, SD cards, external hard drives, phones or headphones attached to laptops that can be moved easily. Plug ’em in, use the data, and take them out.
  2. Always keep backups in at least two locations. Never rely on a single medium or device. This includes online storage locations and social sites. In the online world, nothing is forever.

Lesson learned.