Well, Actually…Maybe I Don’t Know How Your Camera Works


“Can you help me with my camera?” I get that a lot, as I’m sure do most camera weenies whose geek credentials are a little too obvious.

And most of the time I’m happy to co-operate. Ideally, I get the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing somebody is going to have legible images of a key moment in their lives. At worst, at least there’ll be one less uncontrolled on-board flash to blind me.


In some cases, though, my instinct is more along the lines of yelling out, “Hey, I got problems of my own here, buddy!”

Like trying to get a reasonably sharp image of the Northern Lights and establishing foreground from a ship moving at a steady 14 knots through the frigid Nordic night. While wearing every piece of warm clothing I own. And trying to memorize the button layout of a new camera. With gloves on.


In this case, I spent about two minutes exploring the options menu on the semi-panicked lady’s little silver P&S before figuring out a nice way to tell her it was hopeless. Little bugger didn’t even allow ISO setting. All the while semi-panicking myself about whether the astromagnetic show would last long enough for me to squeeze off a few keepers.


Afterwards, I started wondering about how other alpha geeks handle such situations, especially those with more meticulous shooting habits and/or without my enhanced Midwestern Lutheran sense of guilt and responsibility. Does respecting the medium of photography somehow obligate one to assist others in its service? Or is more honest to focus on your own work and allow/invite others to do the same?

Image credits: “Confused” by Jeffrey Kontur, “How Does This Thing Work?” by Lotus Carroll, “Northern Lights” by David Becker, “What the…???” by Jerry Bowley