Friday, June 23, 2017

My First Month

 Ah, my first month with a cell phone.  It has come to this, after four years of ranting against cell phone addiction, invasions of privacy, the dumbing down of culture, etc., etc.  Have I sold out?  Well, here's the story - the shorter version.  I was due to take off alone on a 5,000-mile drive to Pittsburgh, PA, and back, on May 20.  Family prevailed on me to get a cell phone for emergency contact.  I knew I wouldn't have any emergencies, but what the heck!  Started with a TracFone.  Terrible experience.  Returned it, and fought for days to get my refund.  Then, took the plunge and got the latest iPhone 7.  Sold largely on the basis of the superior camera.  Keep in mind, I already owned a Nikon DSLR with 24-MP resolution.  The phone sports 12 MP - impressive technology, I'll admit.  The lens is so tiny I had trouble remembering where it was located, as a few of the following photos will make clear.  So, here I present my first ever Cell Phone Photo (above).  If I were to frame it for a gallery, I'd title it ODD-ometer.
 My second photo might have been a total accident as I tried out the various "buttons" which were really not buttons at all but places on a screen with varying sensitivity to my touch.  I started off feeling like I had the sensitivity of a retired heavyweight boxer whose hands had become fleshy hammers, not the tools of a concert pianist.  My goal for this phone, at first, was to check out its potential to enhance my nature photography.
 My first "nature" photo was taken next to a service station, probably near Sydney, Nebraska.  Sorry, Sydney, but you could not pay me enough to live there.  Anyway, on my way through Wyoming, I often wondered, while zipping along at 75 mph before experiencing a blizzard between Laramie and Cheyenne, what were those large clusters of bright yellow flowers along the roadside.  In Sydney, I found out...
 On closer inspection, the flowers seemed to be either Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) of Groundsel (Senecio sp.), or some other close relative of such.
Not much nature is easy to observe from I-80 in Nebraska, and I had a schedule to keep.  Some day, I might have the time and inclination to wander around Nebraska, off the freeways, and discover what Nebraskans love about it.  Meanwhile, it represents to me 440 miles of corn.  I know there are good bookstores and coffeeshops in Lincoln, but on this trip I had no time to spare so I flew on by and got a little excited about crossing the Mississippi at Quad Cities.
 When I got to Pittsburgh, with further help from my daughter Hyla (My initial instruction was provided by my wife and youngest son in Quincy.), what will likely be my most frequent use of the phone became apparent.  A convenient way to visually record stuff I want to remember later or serve as beginnings of investigations into nature, literature, and who knows what else?  A visual notebook for someone who has a modicum of artistic ability but is not good at quick sketches.   The above photo is of the back of a great book by Lynda Barry at my daughter's house.  I've been intrigued by Barry's books for several years, especially one titled Syllabus.  This one had a quote on the back cover that I could not resist: "Welcome to writing the unthinkable!"  That's one of my goals. :)
Anyway, as soon as I got to Quincy I ordered a copy.  It has arrived and I love it.
 Naturally, I had to discover the infamous Selfie.  As mentioned above, I still have trouble remembering where the ridiculously tiny lens is.  The lens on my Nikon probably weighs more than this entire phone! So, here's me and Hyla, probably laughing at my cell phone ineptitude.  She was very patient though.  Despite my conviction that photos from my Nikon are far superior to anything I can get with this phone, in the coming days, I will share a few other Pittsburgh memories that I captured in the phone.
 Back in Quincy, on one of my first nature wanderings with phone and without Nikon, I went up to Butterfly Valley to show around a new friend from France.  I thought I'd put the camera to a test and catch a few shots of the McCloskey's Violet. Same as with my Nikon, white flowers usually result in a lot of "noise."  I like this composition, but not the clarity.  Click on the photo to better see its poor quality.  Or not.
 I did have the phone with me during a tragic event involving nature.  My son Ryan saw this coming and I did not.  I ran over a Gopher Snake that was crossing the road.  I stopped to memorialize the event, but the damage is not apparent here.  The snake perished, and I felt terrible, while at the same time feeling the usual thrill at having seen one at all. So, the Gopher Snake will play a role in the promised, but not yet composed, post on the theme of Threats: Rational and Irrational.
 Last, two more pleasant memories from Pittsburgh.  My daughter lives on the East End of Pittsburgh, a neighborhood with lots of pleasant people.  I was impressed by the abundance of these signs in the neighborhood and wish that the sentiment expressed would grow in the USA.  I fear the opposite is happening.
Last, a photo Hyla took with her phone and emailed to me after I returned to Quincy.  Carnegie-Mellon is her alma mater for her MFA degree, and she gave me a tour of their excellent museums.  The dinosaur collection is amazing, one of the best in the world.  Also impressive were displays of art and minerals, and the architecture of the place.  So, here's to my getting better at phone photography, but still leaning on my Nikon.

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