There where the lens is wide

So, to summarize, I’d like everyone to know that I do too know how to take a picture on a digital camera. I don’t want to brag, but I have noticed how every digital camera in the world has a little button on the top that you press to take the picture. I’d got this worked out pretty well sometime in like 1978 when I first heard of the idea of taking pictures with anything more advanced than taping the newspaper photograph up to the window so I could trace over it on some paper.

And yes there were too digital cameras back then, models with up to four pixels and the ability to differentiate between one shade of grey and another slightly identical shade of grey, producing photographs that could be shared on the primitive Internet just by running a simple UUencode filter on the file type, then copying it into your e-mail client, which was horrible, and then waiting twenty minutes to find out that your Internet connection died halfway through, and then running down the hall to the recipient and slapping him for wanting to see a picture of this. The point is, every digital camera in the world works by having a button on the top that you press.

Yeah I know cell phones don’t take pictures like that. And I know with iPads you take pictures by standing there holding the iPad up until everyone around you notices how awkward you look and feels bad that you have to do something so embarrassing, and that finally triggers the shame sensors that puts you out of your misery by taking the photo already. Those don’t count. I’m talking about cameras, the kind made of fresh-mined cameraonium ore, and with icons on the side showing that little lightning bolt and the flower representing the climax of Eadweard Muybridge’s vision of a day when the average person could have flowers electrocuted.

What gets me to this is, last weekend I was in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, standing in front of a carousel, because that’s what you do with a carousel that isn’t yours if you aren’t riding it. And a guy came up to me and asked if I’d take his picture in front of it, because that’s the other thing to do with a carousel that isn’t yours if you aren’t riding or looking at it. Sure. But the sun was right behind the ride and the guy and was blasting right into the camera lens, so all the viewfinder showed was a big swath of white and a dark patch that might be a guy in front of a carousel, or it might be a stalagmite in front of a birthday cake, or it might be a little bitty skyscraper for a financial-services group in front of an awful 1960s-style multi-purpose stadium that’s the wrong shape for any of several major sports.

I tried giving it a couple seconds to think about what it was doing, and that didn’t help. So I pointed the camera down and back up again so it could re-think what it was doing, and when that didn’t work tried changing where I was standing so maybe there’d be some identifiable human and carved-horse features visible. And that’s when the guy came over and told me, “You don’t know how to take a picture! You press the button on top here. You have to hold it up in front of you so you can see it. Your problem is you don’t know how to use a digital camera, it’s not like a film camera.”

I started sputtering — I’m not good at getting a word in edgewise, especially when someone else is speaking — and realized I couldn’t possibly win the argument once it hit that point. The only way I could have salvaged the situation would be to cry out that there was a polar bear playing one of the redemption games, and quickly snap a photo of him, my quick photo work proving my competence, and the polar bear didn’t cooperate, as he was getting a slice of Sicilian at the time.

I took his picture like he said, and I know it’s turned out rotten because of the light, only now he’s probably thinking that it’s me that’s the problem. And before you go thinking I’m overreacting consider my position here: someone I never saw before and will almost certainly never see again thinks that I don’t know how to take a picture. So I have to tell whoever it was who befuddled me last weekend, I do too know how to take a picture on a digital camera.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

2 thoughts on “There where the lens is wide”

  1. It’s kind of funny how everyone assumes everyone else needs a tutorial on how to take photographs with cameraphones, too. At the opera a couple months ago I was taking pictures of my dad on my Android phone, and then someone asked me if I could take their picture, and handed me their Android phone, and felt it necessary to explain to me how to do it. As if I wasn’t just doing the exact same thing on what was functionally identical hardware.


    1. Actually I could use a tutorial on how to take pictures with my phone, since I’ve never quite got straight just how to do it. I also haven’t managed to get pictures off of it.

      I’d probably explain my phone’s camera, if I knew how it worked myself, just because I wouldn’t have noticed what camera phone someone else had.


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