Saturday, January 24, 2009

Photo opportunities

"Actually, I'm not all that interested in the subject of photography. Once the picture is in the box, I'm not all that interested in what happens next. Hunters, after all, aren't cooks." 
Henri Cartier-Bresson

It's been a tiring week. First there was the excitement of Mr Obama's inauguration. Then there was the loss of my camera. I realise that losing my camera has little impact on world peace or the global economy, but to me it was a big deal. Goodness knows what happened to it. A squirrel broke into the house and ate it, most likely.
I'd always promised myself that when my camera broke, or was lost, or stopped working, I would buy myself a digital SLR and a tripod so I could take 'proper' pictures. Needless to say, I chickened out of that, thanks to a complete inability to read manuals or cope with bits of camera kit.
My friend Graham Rice recommended what sounded like an excellent book about photographing plants on his blog, the Transatlantic Plantsman just before Christmas. If you're interested, it's called Macro Photography For Gardeners and Nature Lovers, by Alan Detrick, and it's available both in the States and in the UK. I came across a copy in the Wisley bookshop, and it did indeed look fascinating. Trouble is, I couldn't understand a word.
So I bought a pocket-sized point-and-shoot, a Nikon Coolpix, which, the nice John Lewis salesman assured me, was absolutely foolproof. It had an anti-camera-shake device, he said, and face detection. I said I didn't want face detection, I wanted flower detection. Well, he said, with 5 x optical zoom and 10 megapixels, I should be able to take pictures of flowers without them looking like fuzzy white blobs, or indeed, tiny fuzzy white blobs. As for operating it, piece of cake. Just plug it into the computer, and that would be that.
What a load of absolute tosh! When I unwrapped it, I found two rather fearsome-looking cables, not one but TWO cds, the usual guff about guarantees and no lithium battery. No, wait: what is that taped to the underside of the packaging where no one would spot it in a million years? Could it be ... yes, it is a lithium battery.
There was a dinky little charger for the lithium battery, so I attached it to the power cable and prepared to charge the battery. The power cable wouldn't stay put. I tried again. It fell out again. Eventually I managed to wedge it into place with a copy of  Tennyson's Poetical Works.
Finally, I attempted to plug in the cable that connects the camera to the computer. It wouldn't go in! Nooooooooooo! That does it, I thought, I'm taking this back to the shop. Hang on, maybe that was the wrong end? I tried it the other way round, and it seemed to fit. Oh, the relief!
After two days, I am still on page one of the manual. I'm going to go and lie down now.