Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I just had the gift of another trip to Manitou Springs, Colorado. This time, my sister delivered her son for his senior year playing baseball for Colorado State, and since they drove his car from California, she asked me to come and get her in Pueblo. CO. Since Manitou is just forty minutes north of Pueblo, a Manitou weekend was a no-brainer.

At one of the entrances to the Garden of the Gods Park, there is a magnificent giant boulder, sitting impossibly on a rock formation. They call it Balance Rock, and at any one time, there are 50-100 tourists there – taking pictures of each other pretending to hold up this rock. My sister is a lover of this type of photo, so we stopped there too. It was very hot, but she scampered up the rock and waited for me to take her picture.

This was complicated by the fact that only one person can stand at the correct vantage point at a time and there were lots of would be picture-takers.

And the person currently occupying the spot was a woman who could not figure out what to do with her point-and-shoot, which obviously must have belonged to either the husband or son, who were both baking under the Balance Rock waiting for her to press that shutter and get their picture.

As MUCH time went on with no progress, the natives were getting restless. My sister was making faces and gestures in my direction which meant (when translated) “Take that damn camera from her hot little hands, and take the picture for her before we all turn crisp!!”

I hesitate to do that sort of thing. It’s like letting someone sneak into a traffic lane ahead of you or holding the door open for folks. The stream of recipients of your kindness just keep streaming, and where do you stop?

I had my “big girl” camera on my shoulder, and several of the strangers were making the same kind of faces and gestures at me as my sister was. But, selfishly, I did not want to spend the next piece of my life figuring out the buttons on twenty brands of pocket cameras.

The lady did finally hit that shutter with the help of another person in line who maintained that she didn’t know anything about it either. Our turn came, you can see my sister holding up Balance Rock, and all is well.

Later, I was trying to capture the haunted feel of the windows in a wonderful old blue building in downtown Manitou. To keep the windows squared up, I was shooting from across the street with a long lens.

When you have a long lens on your camera, people think you know something. A very sweet couple from Tennessee ambled up and wanted to know all about their digital camera. We chatted for ten minutes or so, and decided they needed a new camera for the wildlife they wanted to shoot (not right there in Manitou, although we did have deer and a bear cub at our hotel that morning – luckily, at different times).

It is estimated that 100 million digital cameras sold in the United States last year, and that does not count the ones in phones.

All of these cameras are magical in what they can do, and so few of these hundred million camera owners know what they can do or what to do with them.

It’s a good thing the cameras can take OK pictures by themselves or we would be truly overrun with bad photography.

Well, we are  overrun with bad photography . . . but it could have been a lot worse if the cameras didn’t at least know what they were doing.

How about you? Do you know much about your digital camera?

Here’s just a tiny bit of a quiz:

Do you know how to take that kind of photo where only the subject is in focus and everything else is a lovely blur?

Do you know what ISO is? (It’s the light sensitivity of the image sensor). Do you know how it affects your photos? Do you know that if you have your ISO set high and you shoot in bright daylight, you can blow your photos out to white?

Did you know that the camera’s flash should be avoided most of the time?

Did you know that all the blurry red flowers in your photos have nothing to do with bad focus?

Did you know that your camera will not focus within a certain distance from the subject?

Did you know that zooming in on a subject flattens the depth of the subject?

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

Do you want to know any of this stuff?

Tomorrow begins the last session for this year (and maybe the last live session forever) of my Art of Digital Photography Workshop, which I think is the best workshop you can take to learn all about your camera – and about photography. I could be more modest about that, but it would not be fair to the workshop.

If you would like to join us, you can click the Art of Photography logo in the sidebar, or this link:

Sign-ups are accepted through the first week of the workshop.

Now, here are a few more of my sister’s “tourist shots”.

You gotta love a town that has a giant school desk sitting by the side of the road, and Cass really wanted to sit in it, but her legs were not long enough to get her up there.

And here is Rainbow Cass . . . anything interesting and she is there!

And, this trip, I was determined to visit, taste, and photograph all eleven of the natural mineral springs for which Manitou Springs is famous. I will be sharing much more about this art project as it takes shape. Meanwhile, Cass got Mom in on this shot . . .

I collected water from all the Springs that were functioning. I will be painting each of them with their own water and some other interesting things.

I wish I could show you the video of Cassie hula-hooping in Walgreens. I will if I can figure out how to get it from iphone to You Tube or my Mobile Me Gallery.

She is fun on a trip – I am thinking of renting her out.

10 thoughts on “Between a Rock and a Hard Place

  1. Susun

    What fun! And your Mom continues to amaze me…love the pictures. A great way to welcome fall, if we ever have one!

  2. Jeanne

    Love the window photo! And I want to add my plug for the Art of Digital Photography class—It is truly a great one to take if you want to learn about your camera and taking good photos. I took it and learned stuff that I didn’t know my camera knew how to do. My photos are better than they ever were. So sign up already! You’ll have a great time.

  3. Sandra LoCastro

    I love the photos too. I would also like to put in a testimonial for your digital photography class. I truly enjoyed the classes and still learned things or how to change them on my camera. I occasionally use point and shoots and find them cumbersome as I am used to the control of a DLSR. It is funny when someone wants you to take a photo for them with a point and shoot as you have a “fancy” camera to them. And you can’t figure it out as it is “too” easy. We look for buttons that don’t exist and then we look like we don’t know anything the person who asked. I have had that happen on occasion. Also people hand me video cameras and ask me to show them how to work it. I don’t know where they get the idea I know everything about all cameras or they think they are all alike. Either way I think we train our own and know it so well it is hard to use another. Thanks for all the great classes I have taken so far. I look forward to taking more.

  4. Jerrie

    In all the years since I was in your 1st class……I think I’ve only taken 3 or 4 photos with a flash! But I seemed to have forgotten the blurry red roses thing……… curiosity is up now, so I gotta to look it up!
    I’ve often thought of asking you Jessica… have a mini re-fresher photography class… WHAT ABOUT IT?

  5. Timaree

    So Cassie is your family fun person and you are the serious one. There seems to be this set-up in most families. My grandkids get me to let loose but otherwise I am the serious, don’t-let-me-look-silly one. I think they have more fun though! I remember a story about my sister visiting our brother in Hawaii. He asked her to please stop acting like such a tourist (yes, just like Cassie did) and she told him “but I AM a tourist” which sort of shut him up.

    I hope you share what your paintings done with the fountain’s own water. What a fun way to memorialize each one.

    I need to go back and re-learn some of my camera stuff. Some sticks and some doesn’t.

  6. Louise W

    You have so much fun together with your Sister. And it’s great that your Mom can experience that fun also!

    I’ll also attest to your Art of Digital Photography. I’ve talked it up so much, I now have a friend from Midland who has signed up for this coming session. Looking forward to seeing her progress with Jessica’s teaching!

  7. Deb Sims

    I have been using the Fujifilm Finepix you recommended and have really loved it. Then my husband won a Sony Cybershot in a raffle. I took the Fuji and my son took the Sony to Italy for two weeks. I was amazed at how much better his photos were, especially the low light photos–so I may switch to it! I keep thinking I would like a “big girl” digital camera but after reading your post I’m realizing I don’t even know how to use all the features on the little point and shoot I have! Thanks, Jessica, you saved me some $$! : )

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