I was playing with a camera this morning, trying to capture flowers in the morning light. In the middle of this artistic endeavor, I had a minor, yet memorable techno-crisis. It is a classic example of the kind of problems that beset us because of the technology on which we depend.
I’ve been taking pictures for more than 40 years. I know my way around a camera.
My first cameras were mechanical. Film. I took a lot of rolls of black and white because I could develop black and white film. A lot cheaper than sending it out to a lab. I also did my own printing, mounting, and framing, though I’ve completely forgotten how.
The only electronic part of those film cameras might be the light meter. My first half-dozen cameras didn’t have built-in light meters, so I used a Weston Master V. It was a standard part of my equipment for years. If I forgot it, the piece of paper that came with Kodak film was a pretty good substitute. We affectionately called it “the paper light meter.”
A while back, I bought a handheld meter almost exactly like the one I used for so many years — and realized I had no idea what to do with it. It has been a long time.
Cameras might break and need repair, cleaning, or adjustment, but basically, there wasn’t much to go wrong. As long as you didn’t drop it, soak it in salt water, or spill coffee in it, it could last forever. To prove my point, there are a surprising number of these old film cameras still in use.
There weren’t many moving parts: shutter, film winding mechanism. You set film speed (ISO), shutter speed, f-stop. Aim, frame, focus, press the shutter. Voila. Photograph.
Today, my camera wakes me in the morning and starts the coffee. If I ask nicely, it will do the grocery shopping, though it draws the line at laundry. Not really. But close enough.
If something goes wrong, it’s crazy time.
This morning, I removed the lens cap and turned the camera on. I unlocked the lens. The menu came on, but no picture appeared. Flashing on the screen was something I’d never seen before. Without a clue what it meant, I double-checked to make sure I really had removed the lens cap. I had.
So I did what I do with my computer. I rebooted. I turned it off, waited, then turned it back on.
More flashing. No picture.
I removed the battery and the memory card, counted to twenty. Put them back. Still flashing. Still no picture.
By now, I was in full panic mode. My camera wasn’t working. Fear gripped me. Eventually, it occurred to me to check whether or not the lens was properly seated.
Click. The flashing stopped. A picture appeared. The lens had been loose. I must have accidentally pressed the lens release button, so it wasn’t quite locked. Ergo ipso, the camera wouldn’t work.
With all the ridiculous, useless functions built into modern cameras, how come they don’t have anything that alerts you that the lens is loose? Or for that matter, that your battery is about to die? The next time someone is adding bells and whistles to the software, please consider adding something useful. If necessary, remove one of the many pointless menu options and add something we might use.
I felt like a moron. Then, I took some pictures.