I got a new camera last week, and it’s brought my photography career full circle. That means I have returned to the place I started umpteen years ago.
My first camera was a Brownie Shur Shot. You pointed at a subject and clicked the shutter. Point and shoot. No muss, no fuss. Later I graduated to a Pentax single lens reflex, enrolled in journalism school at the University of Missouri and pondered focal distance, aperture settings and that spot on every lens called the circle of least confusion.
A couple of years later the U.S. Navy sent me to New York to study Leica photography, using the world’s most sophisticated and expensive cameras. The instructors were called engineers and spoke with German accents. During the course I learned more than I would ever need to know about photochemistry, film production, darkroom technology and camera mechanics. I also learned I could never afford a Leica.
Later as a civilian, I bought Nikon equipment; lots of it, including lenses so awesome I could photograph the whiskers on a squirrel chattering in a treetop a block away.
After years of shooting conventions in Phoenix, product demonstrations in Detroit, car races in Florida and horse farms in Kentucky, I retired from the picture-taking business, set my sights on writing the great American novel, and sold my camera gear.
But, like a junkie in withdrawal, I still needed an occasional fix. Last week I bought a Nikon P520 camera. It looks a lot like my old Nikons, except this one is digital and presents a whole new paradigm in photography. The problem is, I don’t know how to use it. The instruction manual – a mere 30 pages – is useless. It will do a thousand things, none of which I comprehend. Except for one: point and shoot.