Saturday, May 14, 2005


Suddenly the world is very, very green. It's a uniform, brilliant sea of verdure with barely distinguishable features. Lush, not stark. Color triumphant over form. My photographic life, so simple amidst the stripped branches and tangled vines of winter, is in disarray. Recalibrate ! Recalibrate ! klaxons the alarm. As flowers appear, my eye latches onto them as if they were lifesavers, and promptly goes into field guide mode. I become a collector. With a wild flower life list. Ohhh, look ! A stand of bellwort ! And the purple deadnettle's back ! Is that you, downy brome ? There behind the English plantain ?

To complicate things, I've been bringing DKs little digital camera along on my walks. It's an alien little device with a macho name -- Powershot A80 -- whose behaviors I am only beginning to fathom. It's a gigantic leap from viewfinder to LCD monitor, a leap not easily made by someone who has yet to make her peace with her bifocals and who hates scrolling through little electronic menus. There's something simple and comforting about looking through a viewfinder, turning the focusing ring on the lens, and seeing the world grow more or less clear. That's what Leeuwenhoek did, and Galileo. And Louis Daguerre. With DK's little device it's all auto-focus: half-depress the shutter and, after a whirr and some inscrutable blinks of various tempi and colors, one may shoot. Matters are out of one's hands. Important looking rectangles appear on the LCD screen. Sometimes one, sometimes three or four. I address them:

No, you ninny. I said focus on the SEEDHEAD right there in front of you, not on the tree across the field !

What's the song -- I talk to the LCDs, but they don't listen.

LCDs do, however, unpredictably, display various strange hieroglyphs, and even stranger graphs, purporting to inform me, I think, of how much light I just used. Or how much light I should have used. Or something.

Stll, there is some mercy. In the form of a knotweed leaf, surprisingly orange and beautifully folded.

And then there's the mushroom that has an important teaching to impart. Digital zoom.

A digital image, my child, is like unto an ultra-compressed sponge which,upon addition of water, swells to five times its size.

Or like unto a luscious strawberry which can be freeze-dried into a dense little pink nugget for inclusion in space-age, hermetically sealed astronaut meals.


Ohhhh, now I get it ! Optical zoom you do with your lens while standing next to the mushroom. Before you shoot. Digital zoom you do on the privacy of your own computer screen.

Isn't that somehow cheating ?

To take this pretty flower

and pluck this from it ?

And what about the fact that, given its druthers, the original image would prefer to be a monstrous 31 inches wide ? Oh. My. God. Be afraid, be very afraid my Superego counsels. Immediate gratification rocks ! screams my Id, dying to rush home and dump the Powershot's stash of images into Photoshop. No more waiting a week for the developer's scanned film files to be posted on line ! Rad !

I met my fully digital counterpart on the river path yesterday. She was about my age, similarly graying and bespectacled. She carried a tripod and a digital SLR with a susbstantial lens hung on her neckstrap. I was sitting on a low fence squinting at a grape hyacinth in the Powershot's LCD. I nudged a empty bottle of PowerDrink out of the way with my toe. She approached, and we conversed.

She was besotted, she said, with the springtime riverbank. Wasn't it beautiful ? She'd been taking pictures of birds and fishermen. And me ?

Weeds I replied, eyeing her rig. Is that a digital SLR ?

She nodded.

Sweet, I whispered, weak with gearlust. Then there was the call of a mockingbird -- or was it a Mephistophalean chuckle -- and the rest is an unpixilated blur.

No comments: