Sunday, September 09, 2007

Article: Not my birthday

The second photo out of my new camera. Caplin sitting on my lap.

It’s not my birthday but I got a present anyway. I bought it for myself, which is the best way to be sure to get something you like. I bought my present over the internet, quick and easy, and everything seems available.

What I bought is a fancy-schmancy new camera. It’s a digital SLR alot like my old one except that technology has moved on and this is the new and improved version. I bought the camera for a trip to Rick’s niece’s Bat Mitzvah. I wouldn’t actually have bought a camera for that, I don’t like photographing people. But when I decided to drive up to Denver, well, you never know what you’ll see and my old camera just did not seem up to the task.

As can be expected when ordering online, the camera didn’t actually arrive in time for the trip. It was waiting for me when I got home. I would have been more excited but the drive back from Denver took longer than I’d planned. It was almost two o’clock in the morning and I had work the next day. So the camera spent one more day sitting on the table in its unopened box.

The next day when I got home from work I was too tired to look at it. I needed to get some sleep after all that hard driving. The camera spent another day in its box.

But Wednesday when I got home, I spirited the magical package off to my room. Sitting at the chair in front of my computer, I sifted through the contents. Wow that camera looks nice. It has a lot more controls than my old camera. I’m sure I have no idea how to use it.

I’m also sure I have no intention of reading the manual. I pried the documentation from its shrink wrap and opened to the first page. The heading read, “Preventing Serious Injury or Death.” That just makes the whole manual seem stupid. How many people could possibly have been killed by a camera? I suppose it’s possible that if you swung it hard at someone, maybe a baby with a soft skull, and you hit them just right, but who can take that threat seriously?

So I set the manual down, pulled out all the contents of the box and set to work. There were a few things I figured I already knew how to do. This camera takes the same battery as my old camera, so I knew how to charge the battery and install it in the camera. The new camera is the same brand as my old one so it has the same lens mount. I knew how to attach a lens to the body and I even had a lens to attach. The memory card installed the same way also.

That was the end of the easy tasks. The next thing to do was put the shoulder strap on. The mounts on the camera body were obvious. The straps themselves seemed pretty straight forward. And yet, it was not so. I was forced to open the manual again. Naturally that didn’t help. It turned out one of the little plastic keepers had to be used in a particular orientation that was not obvious. Given a 50-50 chance, I’d chosen the wrong way.

Then I turned on the camera. It came up with a screen for setting the date and time. I fiddled with the controls. I want the date and time to be right so I couldn’t move on to actual photography until I fixed this. Sadly, I realized I would have to open the manual and start reading. Annoyingly, the information on setting the date and time doesn’t appear in the manual until page 39. I didn’t read those first 38 pages but they got in my way.

All that done, I was finally ready to take my first photo. Caplin, my two month old capybara, was sleeping on my lap so she provided the obvious subject. It was hard focusing on something so close so I had to lean back in my chair to get enough distance. I snapped the shutter and examined the image on the LCD. Blurry. I put the lens on autofocus and tried again. The second image came out much better but still nothing to write home about.

I hope I’m not actually going to have to read the manual before I can get good photographs. For some reason I have all the time in the world to take pictures but absolutely no time to learn how to do it.

Photo: A giant praying mantis made from car parts that I saw on the way to Denver. I wish I'd had my new camera for this photo.

Photo: View from the Texas panhandle. If only I'd been able to take this with my new, higher resolution camera!

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