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The Salt-Stained Shutterbug

I hate cameras. They are expensive, fragile and hard-to-operate. I especially hate digital cameras because… well, all-of-the-above to the tenth power! Note: cameras and boats just don’t seem to mix. But, alas, as a marine photo-journalist I HAVE to provide my publications with ‘wide selection of quality photographs’… no matter how blurry and out-of-focus they may be. And yet ‘every ting, mon’ I do seems to be wrong, fo-tog-wise. I mean, I’m neither Ansel Adams nor Beken of Cowes——not even close! Example: yesterday while taking pictures of my wife epoxying some plywood… I got a couple of small drops of WEST on my lens… and discovered that sanding them off with the grinder was FAR more difficult than I thought!

Back in the ‘old days’ of 35mm I used to shoot with a Nikon F. This weighed almost a ton, had a shutter which sounded like a French guillotine, and took about an hour to fine-focus… but often actually worked.

Now, of course, it is a different story. I’ve went hi-tech. So today it isn’t only my Olympus C8080 camera which isn’t working… but my photo-printer, storage card, computer, software, card-reader and hard drive as well.

…that’s right, in the name of progress I’ve now got DOZENS of things costing THOUSANDS of dollars which have to function if I’m going to be able to provide blurry, out-of-focus, ill-framed snaps to my editors.

One of the worst aspects is this ‘card’ business. I started with a SMART MEDIA card… even though I was working for a fairly dumb publication at the time… and then had to switch to a COMPACT FLASH card which was far BIGGER and had NOTHING to do with the camera’s flash! Crazy, eh? Why are the names always perversely untrue… the ‘compact’ one BIGGER?

…the next card I was forced to purchase was so tiny I immediately lost it… and thus, was forced to buy yet ANOTHER ‘SECURE DIGITAL!’ Damn, they did it again!

Now my latest camera (not the one I purchased three weeks ago, the one I purchased yesterday) requires an xDrive card… which isn’t a ‘drive’ at all… and even violates the established rules of punctuation!

“But what am I supposed to do with the dozens of other storage cards for which I paid hundreds of dollars,” I asked the guy who was selling me my latest.

“Why, thrown them away and buy new ones!” he beamed.

“…are you sure this camera is the latest one,” I asked him again as we approached the cash register. “And can you show me how it operates.

“I sure am and I sure can,” he said, then, “this is the shutter button… and this button right here tells you when the camera is out-of-date!”

“Wow,” I said, impressed. “No more guessing, eh?”

While he was handing me my change, the camera started beeping.

“What’s that mean,” I asked.

“Oh, bad luck for you,” he said with a wry smile. “Your storage card’s technology just expired… and you need a new card of at least a giggle-byte!”

“…a giggle-byte,” I said, “…do you think that’s, like, FUNNY?”

Yes, these young ‘hep-cat’ salesman can be very snotty. In fact, I was recently shocked and angered when one told me I was OLD and had a HUMILITY problem.”

“What?!?” I screeched, nearly spitting out my dentures and dislodging my toupee. “Humility? Why would I have humility? I mean, okay… if another man had my ego HE would be vain, that’s true… but in my case vanity is just sort of truth-in-advertising… Yeah, okay, I had to have the companionway of my boat widened to get my massive ego belowdecks… I’ll admit that, but…”

“…I said,” he explained. “…you have MOLD in your camera due to HUMIDITY!”

“Oh,” I said, paused, and covered as best I could. “No need to apologize, young fella… I made mistakes when I was a kid too!”

“Is the bridge of your vessel humidity controlled,” he asked.

“Well,” I said defensively. “Sort of. In a way. I mean, God’s in charge. Sometimes waves sweep through… then blistering sun… occasional fog… marine weather can be extreme, you know, laddie… why recently a stationary drunk-front hovered over us for days… rhum-squall after rhum squall raked us on the way to New Zealand…”

“…do you use Photoshop 7 as imaging software,” he asked.

Well, of course I do. But it has, alas, created more problems than it solves.

Example: my wife.

“…what are these… bulges?” she recently asked me as she looked at some full length shots of me I was about to submit to a magazine.

“…what?” I said innocently, and began to whistle in a care-free, non-worried manner. “…what are you talking about?”

“…these bulges, right here,” she said, pointing to an area above my knees but below my belt. “…the ones that look like you’ve got a… large cucumber stuffed down your…”

“Vegetables?!?…” I asked, and tried to change the subject. “I see no veggies…”

“Oh, my gosh,” she said, and cradled her chin sadly in her hands. “…you’ve doctored the pics!”

“…what’s my doctor got to do with it,” I huffed. “Are you mad, woman?”

“…a digitally-enhanced codpiece!” she sobbed in shame-by-association.

“Don’t be silly,” I said, “I don’t see any fish! Besides, what’s wrong with… with… helping nature and a man’s confidence a tad?”

Yes, dealing with my wife can be a trauma! I tried to solve this by pseudo-involving her in the picture-taking process… but, alas, this also ended up more trouble than it was worth.

“…take a shot of me,” I said casually, trying to jolly her along. “…go ahead, honey!”

She took the camera, sighted through the lens and grimaced. “The sun is a problem,” she said, “but I don’t want to get into an argument about it.”

“…what’s to argue about,” I laughed nervously with a glued-on-smile. “Surely, not the sun!”

“…it’s gleaming off your bald spot,” she said curtly. “And it is probably best not to smile, Fatty… if you do we see what’s left of your teeth. And, oh yeah, dry up the drool on the starboard side of your chin… one more thing, darling… your fly is open!”

“Well,” I said, angrily snatching the camera back from her. “Too bad the sun ain’t right, eh?”

But, hey, I soldier on. I continue to sell photos for five and ten dollars… and regularly purchase thousands of dollars worth of delicate, water-sensitive equipment to do so. And I’m gradually getting wiser. Recently a SCUBA magazine asked me to send them some underwater shots… and I just picked up my camera, leaned over the side of my boat, held the camera underwater, and watched it bubble.

“…why did you do that,” my wife asked in amazement.

“…just saving time,” I told her.

Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.” For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com

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