Point and Shoot

I feel a little guilty.

Lately, I’ve been taking pictures and sharing them via social media. Laudatory comments posted in their wake have me scratching my incrementally enlarging forehead. A friend mentioned it in person yesterday and I tried to self-deprecate my way out if it.

“Dude, all I do is point and shoot.”     

My first camera was a Brownie, but I was so clueless that I’d take the film spool in and out, then scratch my 10-year old forehead, wondering why my pictures never turned out. The Kodak Pocket Instamatic with idiot-proof self-contained film cartridges saved me from myself.

My father had an expensive camera and took photos of our family vacations all over the western United States. As a teacher of physics and geology, friends and family did their best to remain attentive during his seemingly endless slide carousel presentations, projected on the off-white living room wall.  

“… and here’s ANOTHER upfolded anticline basalt ridge!”


In high school, I was sort of a jack-of-all-trades on the yearbook staff. Writing, taking pictures, laying out pages. Back then, fingertip photo cropping involved contact sheets, grease pencils, rubber cement and Exact-o knives.

Wichita Heights yearbook. In the bathroom, using up some remaining frames in that roll of film. 

Wichita Heights yearbook. In the bathroom, using up some remaining frames in that roll of film. 

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be associated with photojournalists with real talent and skill. Print and video. As a political reporter at WIBW-TV, most of my subject matter was committee rooms full of people. From Don Brown, I learned not to shoot the backs of people’s heads and to search for the visually appealing component of every setting. Steve Entz, whom I hired to shoot television documentaries after we had both long since departed Menninger Hill in Topeka, taught me the moments shortly after sunrise and before sunset are “golden,” when the light is softer.    

From experience, I have gleaned these basics: Keep the light source between you and your subject. When shooting video, don’t move the camera around. Lock it down and allow the motion to move through the frame. A big part of it is right place, right time.

Digital photography makes me appear more talented than I am. My new Google Pixel phone has a sweet camera built into it, but don’t ask me specs. On a technology knowledge (say that real fast three times) scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being absolutely clueless and 10 being brain implanted cognitive artificial intelligence, I suspect I’m about a 2.5.

Maybe I do know just a little bit more than the average bear about taking pics. I still lay no claim to any special photography talent. I guess do lay claim to having journalistic instincts, honed since childhood, now that I think about it.      

We’re not quite a generation into the evolution of social media. It’s proven to be the most powerful communications vehicle to come along since the dawn of man. My father’s basalt ridge slides were limited to living room gatherings. If they want to, anyone on the planet can see a pic of my wife in her purple go-go boots.

Just like the Internet (btw, why’s Internet capitalized like the Bible?) and technology has makes everyone a journalist, it also makes everyone a moviemaker and/or photographer. It’s a better, faster, more efficient method of delivering or sharing ideas than, say, a high school yearbook.

When it’s all said and done (and we’re rapidly nearing that point with this blog entry), it’s all communication. Better tools make a better craftsperson.

OK never mind. If you wanna keep raving over my pics, knock yourself out. I’ll do my best to keep it all in context.