Oleg Savitsky and Fedor Emelianenko

I had the AWESOME opportunity to meet and photograph MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko in August at Zealous Nation MMA, the facility my trainer Oleg Savitsky owns in Middlesex, NJ.

Oleg scheduled an invite-only Mixed Martial Arts seminar with Fedor and asked me to be the photographer. Fedor is, like, number one in the entire universe, ever.

Fedor and Oleg have competed against one another in World SAMBO competitions and they are friends and colleagues, now through M-1 Global.  Fedor kicks some massive ass, and also happens to be a really nice guy, like Oleg. I was so excited to meet him!

Little did I know I’d somehow manage to lose every single picture I took of this exclusive seminar except the last 10.

What an event!

So, to the set up of this horrific event.  A private seminar is pretty rare because Fedor doesn’t do them often, but he was in Atlantic City for a fight.

The place was packed.  “Exclusive.”  Two cops on site.  Yes, you had to be on The List.  Whoa! (And no one reading this is surprised that sneakers and bare feet rather than Jimmy Choos are di rigueur for most lists I’m on.)

Since I was to take pictures, I went armed with 2 cameras and 4 empty memory cards.  I shot for nearly 2 hours, switching between the regular camera and the one with the long lens, climbing on top of things, getting in on the mat, all over.  Near the end, I swapped memory cards because I’d taken a zillion with the regular lens, and didn’t want to run out of space if Oleg wanted me to take all the personal individual pictures with Fedor.  Then I got my pic with him and I’m PSYCHED!

The “after party”

Whew!  So after the excitement, I helped with “traffic control” for people to meet Fedor and get autographs, and then I headed out.  I stopped on the way home to get gas, and pulled out my camera to look at the pics while they filled the tank.  (You know, because I live in Jersey, the land of No Self Serve at much cheaper prices.  Two thumbs up!)

My first camera displays only 10 pics.

Ahhh, huh?

(A screen shot of the camera preview screen AS IT WOULD HAVE APPEARED during this period of intense freak-out has been reproduced below for didactic purposes using a much more frequently photographed subject.)

Critical to this reenactment is the photo count - note in the upper right corner, Josie represents photo #2/10.  Whereas during the actual event, I would have expected to see photo #2 of something much larger.  Like of 350.

Huh? HUH?

After a very short ponder, I realized that these 10 lonely pictures were the ones taken AFTER I’d swapped the memory cards.  And only THEN did I get this massive sinking feeling in my gut, initiating an instantaneous leap from the driver’s side to the trunk to pull out the other camera.  Which read “folder contains no images.”  This devastating sight appears below.

Pause with me now, and feel the pain.

Ohhhhhh Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.  Auughghgh!

I feel my face getting really hot and I realize that every picture I took BEFORE I swapped the memory cards was gone. Like 340 of the 350 I took.

I don’t believe it!  (Heart triple-beating, inhaling gas fumes at twice the normal rate of respiration…)

I got to shoot FEDOR and I lost all the pics except the last ten?!?!? (** bangs head on dash ** bangs head on steering wheel ** bangs head on window pane **)


So you know how this type of fight-or-flight mental twisting goes …

“ooooh nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo” …
** jaw drops in stunned silence ** …
“Oh $HIT!” …
** bangs head on any available surface(s) ** …
(how can I blame this on the camera?) …
(yeah, I musta screwed this up somehow, and for this, I will die.) …
** involuntary inhalation ** …
Ok, so how the HELL could this have happened?  Is there any freaking way this somehow didn’t possibly really happen???

(Small yet important analytical aside - I got the gene from my father that ponders how things happen.  Sometimes when the world is imploding.  The Spock gene.  It’s clear from this, among other less Spock-y traits, that I truly am his daughter - a blessing!)

But meanwhile, back at the drama ** deep breath ** as I drove home, I started to think, OK, I’ve swapped cards before.  Maybe I didn’t turn the camera off first?  Maybe hot swaps are bad?  No, been there done that. (These are 2 GB SD cards, FWIW.)

But curiously, I realized the EMPTY FOLDER camera said the card had room for 157 pics, even though that card’s capacity is about 500 pics, give or take.  So grasping at the faintest littlest glimmer of hope … I pray to the binary gods that somehow the pics are truly IN the card and that I just have to figure out a way to get them back OUT.  Kinda like recovering all those deleted files floating around in the Recycle Bin.

Then I start to think, the cameras are different but not really - Nikon D80 vs D90.

Maybe if I swap the cards back I can magically see the previous files?  But (sigh) I took MORE pictures after the swap, which just hoses my chances for reversing time without introducing hysteresis.  Never-the-less,  ** fingers soooooo crossed ** …

(Skipping ahead to the last 5 minutes of this episode of CSI…)

Turns out all was recoverable.  The pictures weren’t viewable on the camera because they were on the card in different folders - each camera must have auto-created a new folder when I swapped cards and you can’t see the new folders (and their contents) from the camera directly without mucking around with other hidden menu config settings.

But happily, home on the computer, here’s what the file folders looked like.  My D80 always loads as “Removable Disk (G:)” with pictures in the DCIM folder.  As you can see, the 10 post card-swapped pictures were placed in a separate directory (100NCD80) and the numbering was restarted from _0001.  Oblivious TO ME was the fact that Fedor and all his awesomeness were in 101NAPLE, outside my immediate view.

So at that point I collapsed in massive relief.  I’d been just heartbroken imagining how I would break the news to Oleg that I had no pictures of his big event ….

The PS?

When you realize something VERY BAD has gone wrong, STOP and don’t screw with anything.  Take a deep breath, get away from the gas fumes, and think it through.

This time I got lucky.  In my own ignorance with the cameras, I could’ve “lost” the pictures trying to “recover” them.  God knows I’ve done that before (hint - deleting pictures off a USB stick doesn’t always have the Oops Factor of a “recoverable” recycle bin.)

The PS!

And here we are - Fedor “The Last Emperor” and me!!!

And the PPS

The day after this crazy event, I sent an email to family and friends relaying both the awesomeness and despair of this day.  By then I’d recovered the pictures and All Was Well.  My brother, also a photographer of awesome pictures who gets damn near nothing for them as well, replied:

I knew where you were going as soon as you said ’swapped cards.’ Had that same freak out on the top of a mountain in Japan a few years ago.

Oh, the travesty!

And the PPPS

A couple with Oleg and Fedor and the students at Zealous Nation MMA.