Click Click Click Click Click Click….

That sound you just heard was my external hard drive – a six-terabyte storage unit that carries nearly my entire photo archive – making strange noises.

This is not good.

This is very not good.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with hard drive and disc drive failures before.  I’ve had friends and companies reconstitute the data and then I’ve saved it onto newer, more powerful, data storage units.

Well, one of those data storage units decided it was going to die.

Now thankfully, it’s only storing my data.  I don’t have any programs that are native to that drive.

But … it is holding nearly every photograph (and all the raw files) from nearly two decades of my photography.  Yikes.

A quick trip to Computer Answers in Albany (also known as my techies of choice).

They tried to assuage my fears.  My data is not lost, it’s just trapped.  Maybe it can be transferred to another drive, maybe not.  But if it can’t, they can send the drive off to an out-of-state company that can rescue as much data as possible.  It’s going to cost me either way – either in cash, or in loss of archive.

Trust me, I’m not looking at 100% rescue here.

Yeah, 2020 has been one wonderful year, hasn’t it? </sarcasm>

A week later, Computer Answers called me.  They could not recover the data.

So now it has to be sent to a facility in Wisconsin, where they take the hard drive, put it in a clean room, and try to recover everything.

Oh, and I had to pay in advance.

You know why these companies don’t put their prices on their website?  Because they can charge you an arm, a leg and three fingers, and your only choice is to pay or lose your data forever.

I gritted my teeth and paid the fee.

Last Friday, I received the news from the Wisconsin company.  There was some sort of “scoring” on the hard drive.  The data was lost forever.

I called Computer Answers.  They said they would have the drive sent to another location for one more try.

But I’m not confident that anything will be recovered.

Ten years of photos gone.  Gone with a click.

Now granted, I was prescient enough to put my finished photos on my flickr site, and I could still download those images and use them for future prints if I so chose.  But all the raw files?  They’re gone.  All the original film scans?  Gone.

I gauged what other possible things could have disappeared.  All my Continental Basketball Association files were on that drive.  They’re gone now.  Although I do remember sending files to a person who is currently working on a CBA / Eastern League book, so at least the data won’t need to be reconstructed game by game.  And all my NBL Canada data is safe on another laptop.

Other files are scattered on my Google Drive and on my blog and on other locales.  I may not be able to recreate new images, but I do have those images from eleven years of blogging on this blog site.  So images like The AGFA Bridge over Ansco Lake and Washington County, 2:30 A.M. and Jesus Saves and After the Rain and Graduation With a Bang are still around.  Even the Niagara Falls photo above, where I mixed Instamatic and Verichrome Pan and shot a passing boat through the rainbow mist, is safe – albeit in finished form, but I can live with that.

Maybe it is true.  Nothing truly does last forever.

And someone’s going to say to me, “Chuck, why didn’t you back your stuff up to the cloud?”

Because I can’t be sure if the “cloud” will remain permanent.  My data is my data, and I wanted it near me, not floating around on some server in who-knows-where.

So … one of two things will now happen.  The last-chance repairman will be able to pull something from the hard drive, whether it’s directories or files or hexidecimal images or what… or he won’t be able to do it, and I’ll receive my money back.

Now I know how all those musicians felt when they discovered that all their master tapes were destroyed ten years ago at the MGM fire.  All that’s left of those recordings is whatever was pressed on LP’s or CD’s or 45’s … and even some of the most significant music of its time now only exists in books that write about what that music said.  No, it’s true.  Go to any musician’s page on Wikipedia, and more often than not you’ll see a notation that that person’s music was declared lost in the MGM fire.

You know what?  This year sucks ass.  COVID, broken ankle, now this.

Now part of me is thinking, “well, screw this, just sell your cameras, Chuck, you’re done.  You had a good photography run, now go take up another hobby.”

And another part of me is thinking, “No, it’s not over.  You lost those old files?  Nothing’s stopping you from making new images, bro.  You survived falling off a cliff to get a photo of the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.  You nearly drowned trying to photograph the surf at Saints’ Rest Beach in New Brunswick.  Chuck Miller not taking photos is like trying to divide by zero.  It isn’t possible.”

Maybe, as Frank Sinatra once said, the best is truly yet to come.

So just bear with me for a little while if I feel somewhat empty.  If it takes a while before I get my emotional strength back.

I hate this.

I fucking hate this.

Let me repeat.  I fucking hate this.