Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Always take your camera. (A cell phone is not a camera.)

Sharp-shinned Hawk, looking left.

The local mall has no pedestrian entrances, only driveways. All the stores face inward onto a sea of asphalt. The post-car world is coming, and when it does, the layout of North American shopping malls will no longer make sense. (In fact, the layout of shopping malls has never made sense.) Nevertheless, late yesterday I was walking up one of the mall’s driveways, the one that leads to the bank drive-thru, and a bird, larger than a jay but not by much, shot past my shoulder and swooped upward to land on the crossbar that bonks you if your SUV is too tall.

I was immediately peeved, because it was a handsome male Sharp-shinned Hawk, and I didn’t have my camera. Worse, I had had a short argument with myself before leaving the house about whether or not to bring along Mr. Hesitation, but as it was getting late in the day and the sunlight was declining I imagined my chances of seeing anything picture-worthy were at best, remote, especially since I was heading to the mall.


Sharpies aren’t rare. They winter here in the lowlands, but are seldom seen other than as dark flashes of feathers bolting from the depths of one cedar hedge, snatching a chickadee from a twig, and instantly dissolving into the depths of next cedar hedge. How often do you have one perched on an overhead warning sign, staring at you?

Even my usual camera, the famously inept Mr. Hesitation ,would have done an excellent job, with his 40X digital-optical zoom. That bird could have been, with a bit of Photoshopping for light and contrast, and some cropping, and masking of power lines, and so on, a calendar cover.

I half-heartedly extracted my cell phone from my pocket. When is a camera not a camera? When it’s a phone. I got this phone for Christmas. It is a fine phone. It rings. It sends and receives calls. It texts! It calculates. It tells me what time it is in Auckland. It pretends to be a camera too, but really, it isn’t. What the heck -- I clumsily clicked through the menu with fingers that seem to have grown larger as keypads have diminished.

I discovered that the lens is a wide-angle, so no matter how close you get, you are still a mile away. That tiny smudge (the hawk ) was almost close enough to poop on me. Honest.

On the way home I figured out how to email the pictures to myself (while walking!). Of that I was very proud. I could have been chewing gum and still done it.

Home, I opened my email and there they were, and as I had expected, disappointing. They are the bird image equivalent of the flattened snakes we would peel off the roads in Mexico as part of a faunal study. Voucher specimens. Data, showing presence of said species, but not pretty.

It bears repeating: Always take your camera. (A cell phone is not a camera.)

Sharp-shinned Hawk, looking right.


pookie said...

"Always take your camera"? hahaha. I've yet to learn how to *use* my camera, a Canon PowerShot A570 that I received for Xmas, as a replacement for the brand new (my first) digital camera that I laundered 3 years ago and thus ruined within 1 month of receiving (and having barely learned how to use it -- yes, I'm a dork). I was so disgusted with myself for laundering it that I didn't replace it.

So now, when I come across a really cool spiny stick insect (huge!) or a tree weta (uglay!), I resolve to learn how to use my camera (alarmingly thick instruction manual!), but then I inevitably wuss out. pathetic.

Hugh said...


You must get a picture of a tree weta!

Manuals are meant to be ignored. In Canada, for every item of technology purchased we get to ignore two manuals at the same time (one English, one French).

Just start using it. All will fall into place. But keep it away from the Maytag!