This happened a few years ago when I was doing more writing for magazines which often offered additional $$ for accompanying photographs.
Friday, April 14, 2017
Old Writers - New Tricks
In our bid to join the twenty-first century, my friend Brenda and I took a class on Digital Photography. We both bought new cameras recently. In the past, our photographic expertise had consisted of: a) peering through the viewer to more or less center our subject (with a success rate of about 50 percent); b) clicking the button and 3) hoping for the best. If we had ever learned from past experience, we would have confined ourselves to purchasing simple, throwaway cameras and letting it go at that but, ever on the quest for knowledge, professionalism and technological hipness - and always over-estimating our own abilities, we forged into new photographic territory.
Brenda chose her camera by means of the ever-reliable “it was on sale” method.. I used a somewhat more labor-intensive technique for making my decision. I went to the camera section of the Amazon.com website and read the reviews for different brands and styles of digitals. I was particularly on the look-out for comments such as: “this camera is so easy, a two-year-old could take competition-winning photos with it!” I ignored any mention of pixels and shutter speeds and other mechanical comparisons. By the time I scrolled down through page after page of reviews, often by writers who disagreed (“Brand A is the easiest and most reliable camera I have ever used and I’d never buy anything else!” versus “Brand A is junk and a total waste of money!”), I was no closer to a resolution than before.
When my camera was delivered, it came in a box of a size to suggest that it contained a microwave. The box included three manuals, one so thick, you’d assume it was instructions for building the space shuttle. This particular manual boasted four pages of Table of Contents. It has thousands of depictions of tiny little icon choices that my aging eyes have to struggle to differentiate and a series of complicated schematics that only an engineer would understand.
Of course, you have to consider that the manual would only be half as large if it was not divided in half by language since it has instructions in Spanish as well as English. I am not one of those people who are bothered by having to “press one for English”. In a complicated life of many ups and downs, pressing a single button seems like one of the simpler decisions I have to make. I almost enjoy it because it is something I can do without agonizing about whether I’m doing the right thing. And, in fact, with this manual, it really probably wouldn’t matter much if I flipped to the English section or the Spanish section because I think I would understand either one equally as well.
Along with the camera itself and the manuals were several cords and a cd and a carrying case and a little extra memory thingy that the Amazon people advised me to buy.
It was all so overwhelming that I simply placed everything in a cupboard and never looked at it again. That was in August. Brenda got her camera for herself at Christmas and has yet to take a picture.
We both decided we needed professional assistance if we were going to be able to take advantage of our new cameras and that’s why we signed up for the Digital Photography class. The first class was on a Tuesday. I missed it because that was also Super Tuesday and nothing could have pulled me out from in front of the t.v. when election results were rolling in.
Brenda called me on Wednesday night. She was depressed as she told me about the class. First, everyone there seemed to have higher end cameras than either of ours and second, all of them seemed to be considerably farther along the road to knowing how to use their cameras. (For instance, they all knew about framing and shading and what Photoshop was.) Bottom line: she felt dumb even though the instructor tried to convince her that neither the quality of her camera nor the depth of her ignorance was a cause for concern.
She told me that she tried to take notes but in looking back at them, they turned out to be gibberish. She told me our homework assignment was to know the speed of our cameras and to take a “raw picture”.
Sadly, she asked me if I knew the speed of my camera (answer: no) or if I knew what a raw picture was (answer: no). We are supposed to get together this afternoon with our manuals and try to figure these two things out.
At the end of our conversation, she said - “there’s only one consolation about next week’s class.”
“What’s that,” I asked.
“You’ll be there too and you’ll be just as stupid as me.”
Oh, wow, I could hardly contain my anticipation.
* Incidentally, we only made it through three classes before we ignominiously dropped out. My digital cameras is still in the same cupboard I put it in on the first day I got it. I mostly use my cell phone to take pictures now. I'm not very good at it.