Photo Friday: The Accidental Photo

It really was too dark to see.

I passed by the United Church, on Merivale Road, earlier in the day. At that time, the dark grey clouds threatened rain, let loose a sprinkle off and on to show that it was serious. Moving slowly, in traffic, I looked at the cemetery stones, saw the old tombstones that went back more than a century, and new I wanted to use the site for my photo of the day.

I've known of this church for decades, remembered passing it when I was a kid, travelling with my folks to visit relatives, who lived in Barrhaven. I remembered when this section of Merivale Road seemed more isolated, when it was a simple, two-lane roadway, where the front doors of this church faced the street and there was more yard space.

These days, the entrance has been moved to the north side, the building now feet from traffic. 

Built in 1875, on the site of a meeting hall that went back as far as 1849, this structure has a lot of history. It surprised me, as I pulled into its parking lot, last week, that it was the first time that I had given it my undivided attention.

Now, late at night, the clouds still threatened rain. As I stepped out of the car, camera and tripod in hand, a few scattered drops fell, proving that the sky was serious.

There was no illumination in the cemetery. Only the dim glow from streetlights and the shops across the street kept me from tripping over broken branches and little metal fences that marked the boundary of some graves. One very old tombstone had fallen over from decades of neglect, and it was by good fortune that I noticed it in time to step over it.

The exposure was only supposed to be 30 seconds. The aperture was opened to a middle range, so that I could let a good amount of light in but that I could have a wide depth of field.

My mind wandered after I pressed the remote shutter release. The wind blew leaves, which echoed off the stones, making it sound like many feet were dragging across the grass. There wasn't a lot of traffic at this time of night, but the sound of automobiles and a passing bus filled my ears. There wasn't much that I could see, and of course, with all my recent binge-watching of The Walking Dead, it was easy to get the creeps.

I looked around, in the dark, at the tombs, and wondered if anyone else was out there, with me, watching me.

Surely, I thought, the 30 seconds would be over soon and the result of my exposure would appear on the camera screen. Not yet.

An airplane had taken off from the airport, was climbing not too far away. Because of the low-lying clouds, not even the plane's lights could be seen. I hoped that the rain wouldn't fall in earnest before I finished taking pictures. The day was coming to an end, soon, and I didn't have time to go elsewhere to get my POTD.

Something was wrong. It was way more than 30 seconds. My mind had wandered and I didn't know how much time had elapsed, but it felt like more than a minute at this point.

Had my battery died? I didn't get any warnings that it was getting weak. I had a spare pack in the car: it would mean that I'd be out here longer if I had to swap it.

In the dark, my eyes were starting to adjust, and the glow from the street light was illuminating the top of my camera that I could barely make out the LCD display. I could see that 30 seconds wasn't appearing where the time is shown.

It read bulb.

The camera was waiting for me to press the shutter release again, to end the exposure.

Too long, I told myself. I looked at the display on the back, to see how blown out the exposure was going to be.

It wasn't. It was perfect.


Though the sky didn't look as dark as it was, though the tombstones were much more visible than they were to my eyes, the exposure was just fine. In the darkness, I didn't see that one of the stones had lined up with the street light, as though it was pointing to it. The lights on the passing bus show as streaks in the distance.

Those clouds, that threatened to pour rain down on me, seemed calmer.

It wasn't the photo I had planned to take. It was an accident. But it was a good accident. 

Happy Friday!

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