Camera Obscure

cameras 0119Sometimes the hardest part about this blog, and the most time-consuming portion, are the elegant photo illustrations that accompany each post. We’ve already established that I have resorted to “borrowing” heavily from the internet, in the manner that Mr. Krabs borrows, i.e. (to turn a Latin phrase) without permission.

I try, where I can, to use my own photos. And do these photos come from a camera? No, they do not. They come from that Miracle of the 21st Century, the cell phone that is So Much More Than a Phone. Some people, in fact, never seem to use their phone as a phone.

My first cell phone cost $8 and was tied to Tracfone. I paid for minutes as I went along. I still have the phone, and I still keep paying $20 every three months and have amassed over 1,000 minutes I’ll never use.

I never did figure out how to retrieve phone messages anyone left me. It requires a passcode I don’t think I established, and when I try to input any four-digit number, the phone tells me I’ve mis-dialed. I called Tracfone once for assistance, and encountered a rather hapless woman who could tell me less than I knew myself, and since none of the messages that were being left seemed to come from numbers I recognized, I stopped worrying about it.

Meanwhile, CenturyLink was upping (and upping and upping) the monthly bill for our landline. We had stopped paying for internet when the company was incapable of delivering service (five separate service calls, and not one of them uncovered the rotting line coming into the house), and suddenly we were paying $75 per month for just the phone, which was more than we paid for phone and internet combined. Factor in the crappy customer service (when a company tells you they’re going to provide you with “excellent customer service,” that’s a clear indicator you’re not going to get anything like that), and the part where we received one real call a week (from my mom) and a bunch of robocalls, and the value really wasn’t adding up.

I switched the phone number I’ve had since age 6 to Lynn’s AT&T plan (although I believe my name got detached from the number and it is now technically Lynn’s) for a monthly bill that is one-third of CenturyLink’s price — but then I had to get a real cell phone.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on this: I went into the local AT&T store and latched onto a Samsung (right as their Notes were setting people’s pants on fire — and now I understand their washing machines are blowing their tops; this is a seriously explosive company) that cost $100. A smart-ish phone that’s still smarter than me.

After more than a year, I know how to answer calls, sort of, and make them, although when I call people from my desk at work (in the back of the building), I can hear them but they can’t hear me. I have no idea how to access the internet, and I had James (a younger co-worker who owns a high-end Samsung) put all the clutter on my home screen into folders that I am never going to open.

And then there’s the camera, which — due to blogging — has become an indispensable part of my daily routine. But I really don’t have a firm grasp of it, either.

I figured I would have to experiment to understand it, and that’s kind of been the case. I have sort of, but not really, figured out the zoom feature. I sometimes accidentally turn the lens around to “selfie” mode, but have yet to take a selfie. (I thought I did that, inadvertently, last summer, but no. Like all the “buttons” or whatever you call them on a phone, I have to tap about 400 times before anything actually happens.)

There are several things about using the phone as a camera that I don’t care for. Some are operator-driven: when I push the button to take a picture and nothing happens, I assume that’s probably me. But it’s still annoying to attempt to take a picture and nothing happens. And then I take four pictures in rapid succession.

[Massive time-out for Sunday breakfast. None of the world’s problems were solved.]

Another issue with phone-as-camera is that I push the button to go to camera, but it ends up back at the home screen. I think there were others, and I was on a roll, but that was hours ago. The number-one problem with phone-as-camera is that I can’t see what I am getting when I take photos outside.

A local merchant once had a hunter tell him, no, he hadn’t seen any game, but he did take a couple of “sound shots.” “What’s that?” the merchant asked. “I heard something, so I shot at it,” the not-really-a-hunter replied.

My phone (so far) is less lethal than a gun, but I’m like that hunter: point in the direction of something I want a photo of, and hope it turns out. Sometimes it doesn’t: I was trying for the hoarfrost on the vegetation surrounding our new pond, and mostly took a picture of my thumb instead. Sometimes it does: I went for hoarfrost along the Van Tuyl trail, and that’s what I got.

My first camera was a hand-me-down, and it used some weird film that was harder to come by than the 110s other people had. (Maybe it was 126?) Then, in high school, I believe with an assist from my Uncle Jerry, himself a photography buff, I got my first SLR — single lens reflex. I wore that camera out and had to get another one during my newspaper years.

And then I left the paper and packed my camera onto a shelf, where it has mostly been resting ever since. I used it during my G-Force newsletter days (20 years ago), and probably here and there on occasion, but my drive to create with the camera was mostly gone, used up by 10 years of lugging it with me everywhere I went.

And then everyone in the world set their cameras on shelves and started using their phones. Well, I suppose not everyone, although even professionals moved to digital. (I shot a few weddings, and boy, would it have been nice to see what you got while the bride and groom were still there in all their finery rather than waiting a nerve-racking week to see if anything turned out.)

We have a point-and-shoot digital camera at work that we used for our intermittent Facebook posts, and those are worse than phones. I would see the shot I wanted through the viewfinder, press the button . . . wait . . . wait . . . click! Long after the moment was gone.

I contemplated buying a digital SLR, but those are pricey. And now I have a smart-ish phone that functions better than a point-and-shoot (at least I can see what I’m getting before I take the shot, if I’m inside). So far I’m not going to manage any of the art(ish) shots that marked my college years, but it appears to be good enough for blogging.

And even better: I can text those photos to my e-mail. Look at me being all 21st century!

van tuyl trail 0119I’m happy with the way this turned out, even though I couldn’t see anything on my phone, either before or after I took this.


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