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Monday, July 26, 2010

A Second Chance

On Tuesday, I discovered our good, two-year-old Nikon D-40 is broken. A four-hour visit to the camera shop the next day suggested it may require a costly repair. “Costly” these days means, “Wait until the funds are in the bank account,” so I’m off for a second opinion today. For the moment we are down to one camera. Our daughter’s Cannon PowerShot takes a decent photo, if you know how to select the settings. I don’t.

Last night, before the sun went down, the wind shifted and the warm Jello air we slogged through all weekend disappeared. Earlier in the day my husband and I were sure we’d have to christen the second-hand air-conditioner we appropriated for our bedroom, but by nighttime, the breeze wafting through the open windows led to a cool change and an easy sleep.

The upshot of that meant I was up walking early this morning, having jumped out of bed to clear skies and a gut conviction that a perfect photo could be had on a day like today. Bolting out the door at 6:45, I grabbed the Cannon. My instinct was correct. Under a sun that still felt the brush of the treetops, a flock of white egrets stood knobby-kneed in the low-tide marsh across the road from where my favorite two boats are anchored. Hiding behind a bush and holding my breath, I waited until one elegant bird stood long enough to form his reflection on still water, then released the shutter. I caught another bird hunching its shoulders prior to cracking the surface with a needle-beak. He emerged shaking his head, with a silver minnow flapping.

Already delighted by the morning’s digital offerings, I rounded a corner where another stunning water view pans out. More egrets assembled there, long necks reaching and plucking at the mud flats in front of the sleek lines of a sixteen-foot wooden dory, a boat that wasn’t there last week. This time I crept through the long grass by the water, edging closer, taking picture after picture of the birds feeding in the foreground with the graceful boat bobbing behind; thrilled by this new subject—and the award-winning shots I was convinced would be the result. Ah, photography. It is almost as humbling as writing.

When I grabbed the camera earlier, I assumed the function button was set to “Auto.” Since I’m unfamiliar with how to change things, I left it that way. In spite of a growing compulsion to record my surroundings over the last few years, I’ve never taken a photography class. After today, my guess is that the first lesson would be to “check your equipment." I didn’t, and as I downloaded 27 pictures later this morning, all those beautiful birds appeared over-exposed, cut off, blurry or missing completely. The sloped necks and Ed Sullivan walks, the jerk-kneed tiptoes as they picked through the shallows, that clean new boat swinging behind them on a light breeze—none of it came out—a disappointment that brought me close to tears before offering up today’s Middle Passages exercise—

Take a seat at the computer Liza. Using the software located inside your brain, build language to describe the scenes in those failed pictures for your blog readers. Attempt to Photoshop these images from your real life into words.

Then idiot, locate the instruction book and learn how to use the damn camera.

15 comments:

Robin said...

You didn't need the camera. I was right there with you. I have seen those boats enough times that I know what they look like. And you really have delectable way with words that I sorely envy. Maybe that was the lesson for today.

jbchicoine said...

I can't tell you how sad that makes me. Been there, though...sadest part is, when it comes to being in the right place at the right time, and missing it--NO REDO's!

On the other hand, the great part about being a writer of your caliber: who needs pictures!

...and Jello air--I have to remember that one...

rae said...

"Jello air" = awesome

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That sucks!
And sad thing with most cameras, it's almost cheaper to buy a new one.
I know exactly what you mean by Jello air.

Mary said...

I'm sorry this happened to you but you made my day. I got a camera/video recorder for Christmas. Instruction say a child can use it. That's true I've watched them switch back and forth with ease. (I mean like 9 or 10 yrs. old.)
I have managed to take a few stills after reading the techno directions.
After reading this I may try again.

Tabitha Bird said...

I can't use a camera to save my life. But I know you can. I love your pics. And yeah, instruction books are good things sometimes. :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, that's disappointing! But that's okay, you'll master that camera yet and get some other great shots.

Rose said...

sorry about your camera. you will do fine with whatever camera you use.have a good day.

Helen Ginger said...

Instructions? You don't need no stinking instructions! Oh, alright, you do. But you didn't today. You wrote us a picture of your walk.

WritingNut said...

Aww, I'm so sorry - that sucks. Cameras these days have far too many bells and whistles that just end up complicating our lives rather making them easier!

Purple Cow said...

Hahaha I do that with cameras...but sometimes the picture is better when we don't photograph it...the picture we have in our mind is more ideal...

Jon Paul said...

I love that camera. We have two--one of which went with me to Baghdad and back. I got a fair number of great shots with the auto setting, and, like you, my knowledge beyond that is rudimentary.

Still, although I may be partial, the words were better. :)

Jan Morrison said...

My photography discipline is called Miksang - a sanskrit word meaning good eye. the practice is a contemplative one. I often wondered if I need film (or now digitization?) to do the practice. I don't think so. You practised that today and your descriptions are so wonderful that you know it worked. Would you have come up with 'ed sullivan walks' if your photos had turned out?

Kathleen said...

You succeeded. I could see it all. And I could feel the "jello air"....love that. The words, not the air.

Simon C. Larter said...

"warm Jello air"

Ha! That's just perfect! Well said, good lady.

But you still had those moments, whether you recorded them on "film" or not. And that's what counts. :)