Thursday, May 14, 2009
The Tools of the Cameragods
(Note: Here's a pic of my wife under the Korean cherry blossoms this spring. I can't judge it's quality authoritatively; all I know is that she not only didn't ask me to delete it, she actually used it for her Facebook profile. This indicates that's probably as good a photograph as I can take.)
When my Canon Powershot stopped working less than a month before my wedding/honeymoon, I was at first relieved to find that camera technology has so advanced that I could buy an upgraded version of the same model for about $200 less.
Once that relief passed, however, I became somewhat unhappy with the notion that my new, more mega-pixilated model would probably have even more features that I would never learn how to use.
It’s been eight years since I, working for my university newspaper, was handed a black box of advanced machinery and asked to make visual journalism take place for the purpose of complimenting my written work. Thankfully, I have since overcome the feeling I had at that time, which was that of being a high school remedial math student asked to take the helm of a space shuttle.
Back then, it was easy for me to imagine the moment of import, when I was about to get a shot of our university president doing something decisive and front-page worthy, only to push a button that made all the batteries fall out and the camera disintegrate. Not only would I owe the student newspaper the equivalent of all my cafeteria money until I finished a doctorate, but I’d forever lose the president as a contact.
These days, I’m confident that nothing I push will damage the camera or my reputation, but I suspect I’m only fulfilling about one-fourth of my Powershot’s value. There must be a way to make my photos less blurry, less dark, sharper, etc. but I don’t know the precise setting/angle to use. Therefore, I’m not fit to move on to the more expensive, more advanced units wielded by the Cameragods.
These are the people who shame me through their thorough knowledge and utilization of more advanced equipment than I may ever be able to afford. What’s more, I will probably never be able to avoid my embarrassing encounters with them as long as I a) work for newspapers and b) travel.
Virtually all publications, whether daily, monthly, or web log, employ the use of photographs. Likewise, practically all places in which travel often occurs attract those who want to record their memories in the slickest, best-lit method possible. Those of us with cameras of less than a $500 price tag and a weight that could not club an adult moose unconscious are often in these situations, hoping to use ours as well, but usually end wishing we could do so while wearing a disguise such as a ski mask.
That’s because once we start using ours, the Cameragods start asking us questions, apparently for our own amusement.
“So how many megapixels do you got?” they’ll ask us.
“Uh, eight,” we’ll respond.
“Hmm, that’s cute. What kind of aperture does it have?”
“(Pause) The … normal kind,” we’ll answer. Not wishing to dwell on our own inadequacy, we seek to change the subject, hopefully learning something in the process. A good place to start would apparently be the massive lens this Cameragod is using, apparently because he wants to be able to get a clear picture of Saturn.
‘What kind of lens is that?” we’ll ask.
“This is my ultra-ultra wide. It’s 16 mm, but I also brought along my 20 mm.”
“Oh,” we’ll say, with no small trace of awe in our voices. “If 16 mm is ultra-ultra wide, then 20 must be really ultra-ultra wide!”
“Hey Nick!” this Cameragod will say, turning to one of his fellow photography deities. “You gotta hear what this guy just said!”
Attempting to avoid further embarrassment we slink away to take our own photos and just be left alone. The problem is that the self-consciousness doesn’t end when the conversations with the Cameragods do. They, with their lenses that threaten to gouge out unsuspecting eyes, are instantly recognized by all potential photo subjects as knowledgeable artists in the field who, you never know, might get them in a magazine somewhere.
Said subjects clear out of the way for those of us with cameras of less than $500 in value, though, as we just look like weirdoes who want to take badly lit pics of strangers for our personal use in some poorly lit room.
Therefore, my photography subjects while living abroad tend not to make publications, and their subjects are generally limited to those of landscapes and of my wife, which she often attempts to convince me to delete later. Every so often I talk to her about upgrading my camera’s specifics, maybe getting a lens that would allow me to see, say, Mars.
“Later you can,” she always says. Perhaps by “later” she means when we have enough money saved. Perhaps “later” means after I have mastered the intricacies of the Powershot.
Perhaps “later” is code for “We both know you’ll never be photography deity material.” Either way, I suspect the Powershot will keep me company for some time to come; at least until it breaks, and I can buy a 10-megapixel model for less than $300.
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