Rain-dotted

This morning, I dropped my camera…again. Today was another gray, drizzly day, so I was taking more pictures of raindrops, and while I was fumbling with one gloved hand trying to slip my camera into a rain-protected pocket in my purse, my camera slipped out of my hand and crashed onto the wet sidewalk below.

Rain-spotted

Again. My everyday-use camera already looks like it’s been through a battle, and perhaps it has: I use it, after all, nearly every day and in nearly every weather. I first dropped it last December, when I fell down some steps while taking an oddly angled shot, and ever since my everyday-use camera has had a badly dented lens housing that prevents the lens cover from opening and closing completely. Today, at least, my camera was off when I dropped it, so the telescoping lens-housing wasn’t extended and thus didn’t get banged up any more than it already was. But the impact of the drop was hard enough to jostle the memory card out of place, and now the lens cover doesn’t move at all when I turn the camera on or off. Ooops.

Green and gold

The camera itself continues to work, however, as these shots prove. I’ve learned over this past year that a camera doesn’t have to look good to take decent pictures as long as you remember a few simple things. If your automatic lens cover no longer works, for instance, you’ll occasionally have to open it by hand; otherwise, you’ll get shots with a dark shadow in one or more corners from where the lens cover was still partially extended. Similarly, if you’re shooting with a banged-up camera, you have to remember that a camera without a fully functional lens cover will fog up after you come inside from carrying it in your pocket on a cold day. But these limitations aren’t too troublesome if you accept them as a necessary part of using a well-used camera.

Now that I’ve taken a year’s worth of pictures with a banged-up camera, I’ve grown rather fond of the thing. We all have our battle scars, and I’d like to think that they attest to the strength of our character as well as the depth of our experience. Now that I’ve taken a year’s worth of pictures with a banged-up camera, I’ve determined to continue using it until it is truly is worn out…or until I’ve dropped it one too many times and dies completely. In the meantime, I’ll keep shooting in all weathers, undeterred.

Butterfly on sunflower

Lately I’ve been experimenting with what I call “zoom-macros”: up-close, macro-like shots taken from a distance with my point-and-shoot digicam’s zoom. The first time I took a zoom-macro, I was too lazy to crouch down and stick my camera right in the face of some short flower; another time, I zoomed to take up-close shots of the frost feathers in an overhead tree. When height, unstable terrain, or other challenges prevent you from sticking your camera right up close to what you’re shooting–or when crouching would insert your own shadow between the sun and the very flower you’re trying to photograph–standing back and relying upon your digicam’s zoom is a workable alternative.

Sunflowers

The most useful use of a zoom-macro, I’ve found, is in shooting insects, which tend to fly away (or, in the case of bees, sting you) if you stick a digicam in their face. When I bought my new Panasonic Lumix digicam last Christmas, one of the features I coveted was its 10x optical zoom, several steps up from the 6x optical zoom on my previous Lumix. Although I wanted a more powerful zoom primarily for shooting pictures at hockey and basketball games where J and I tend to have almost-nosebleed seats, I was intrigued to see my new camera’s manual recommend the zoom for the other sorts of shots I’d experimented with, advising that photographers employ what they called “tele-macro” for taking up-close shots of insects or wary animals. Here I thought I’d invented (and named) the technique simply because I’d never heard of anyone else doing it!

When it comes to photography, like anything, there’s nothing new under the sun: I’m sure folks have been using zoom lenses to take extreme closeups since those lenses were invented. Still, since I’m not one to actually read a camera manual, I’m still learning (through trial and error) how to use my “new” Lumix more than six months after I bought it. Now that I’ve almost perfected the art of the zoom-macro, I now have a bigger challenge. How do you get a pair of flower-distracted bumblebees to look at you so you can snap their taken-from-a-distance picture?

Bees on purple coneflower