The Problem with Photography

Versailles 2009

Is that it’s so freaking expensive and so freaking enjoyable.

Everyone is a photographer nowadays what with inexpensive and great cameras abounding all over the place.    And frankly it doesn’t really matter what camera you buy.  Timing, light, right place at the right time – all matter – and usually more than the equipment.

Take the featured image up top, if you can see it because I’m not quite sure what’s going on my theme options here.  (I am such a pro.)

One of my friends who is a Francophile claims that I have some of the best images he’s ever seen of Versailles (which is of course, very polite of him.)   He wished he could afford a camera like mine.

Fact is, they were all taken with a small Nikon CoolPix which I still use from time to time, and edited with iPhoto.  I love the camera. It had a shutter issue a few years in and I looked it up on some Nikon forums which had all sorts of odd fixes.  I got a Q-Tip and rubbed a little WD-40 on it. Works like a charm.  Fits in a pocket.  Photos were adjusted a bit on a MacBook.


The story is this:  I had traveled to Paris, alone as Priests often do,  and ended up at Versailles a few days before coming home.  Standing in line in the early morning to purchase tickets, a few of us English speakers gravitated towards one another and hung out whilst we toured the place.  It’s absolutely beautiful, but it’s also – short?  It’s built right at ground level and while it has high ceilings it just seems smaller from the outside than it actually is.  Maybe it’s because I’m from New Orleans where everything has to be raised ten feet in the air.

The group was fun, and everyone was traveling solo which made me feel less odd.  One guy had a huge camera setup and was taking all kinds of photos.  One girl, a true chatterbox if ever one was born, was taking everyone’s pix and asking for poses and such.

But the day was overcast, the fountains had come on for a bit then gone off.  None of the pictures were very exciting, though they’re photojournalistic and carry memories.  Gradually we all drifted apart.  A large group of us split to catch an early Metro back to the city.  Some of us went to Le Petit Trianon, which was well worth it. Then everyone else left, and I decided to stay a bit and wander around.  It was a peaceful place, very pretty.  Marie Antoinette was a devout Catholic, not the villainess she was made out to be, it was amazing seeing where she lived out most of her days.

Some of my friends had visited Versailles a few years before and talked about how they had brought a bottle of wine and some bread and sat in the park and picnicked, so being the romantic at heart that I am, I decided to meander over that way to see what they were talking about before I headed back to the city myself, so that I could go to Mass that evening at Notre Dame Cathedral, a few blocks from my hotel.

Suddenly – and I do mean suddenly – the clouds parted dramatically and in the heavens appeared the most glorious sight of the sun, shining over all the gardens, the trees, the statues.  Crowds flooded in because, come to find out, it was the last day of the year that the fountains were going to be on.  And boy were they on.  I was able to walk around in the beautiful lighting and take snaps of every fountain, every statue, every building every tree with my little Nikon CoolPix.  And they’re all GreatPix. It was a sheer fluke of timing.


This is an old picture of my friend Tracy when we went to Peru – taken with a Canon 35mm automatic that actually used film.  The year was 2000, digital cameras were new to most people and I even brought along a leaden-pouch carrying case to bring my rolls of film back into the US and not be damaged by X-Ray machines, as one used to do.


We were hiking near Huaraz with a friend named Bill who we had met a few nights before while having dinner and far too many beers and tequila shots for any of our good.  He had just come off the mountains and was sunburnt and depressed about his relationship with his girlfriend.  Tracy was looking forward to meeting her boyfriend in Lima before we headed to Machu Picchu, and I was a seminarian who had decided to splurge and pay $10 a night for my own room with a private bathroom because in seminary I had to walk 50 yards to the nearest bathroom and I just had to have some sense of self. My room also had a spectacular view of Huascaran, one of the most awe-inspiring sights I’ve ever seen.

It’s a scan of the actual photo, which looks better than this.  Again it’s a fluke that we ended up here because we simply got very, very lost on our little adventure and ended up finally just walking up a hill (“a hill”, hah! snort;) to find the trail.  Of course no hiking trail existed because we were very very, very lost.

In the Andes, an actual civilization exists, and it is gorgeous. We walked through so many small farms and private fields we couldn’t even count them. After hours of hearing “Arriba! Arriba!” when we asked anyone where the trail was, the few people we encountered in their fields who stared at us as if we from Mars, we finally found their trail.  It’s a sort of sidewalk along the side of the mountains, with a small waterway built along the side of it.

The photo’s nothing National Geographic would publish, or that most people would admire, but it’s a perfectly fine photo.  Because when was the last time you were in Huaraz, on a trail way up “arriba” used by the locals, with that scenic background?


The Belfry

The iPhone Photo

If you’ve ever been here, this is the belfry at St. Jane de Chantal Church.  It’s a photo taken with my iPhone.  It’s a pretty capture and delights people.  Nothing magnificent but a good time to catch a colorful sunset, with our scenic little church that I have photographed a thousand times over from every angle.

Seriously, do you even need a camera these days?

The Old Train near Abita

Photo Records

Another pic from my little Nikon. When I first got to St. Jane Parish, Hurricane Isaac hit the area (small, a category 1,) and everyone was cooped up for three days of rain, winds and squalls. The rivers flooded over the bridges and we were isolated in the little island that Abita turns into at such times (with me giving constant thanks that the water flows downhill and we’re 31 feet above sea level.) When it started letting up I got on my bike and rode down to the lake to see how things had fared.

Along the way were these Pullman cars that used to belong to a family as their weekend-vacation-getaway-place. The family has since sold them, and the railcars were moved out a few years ago.

As the rain started up again I took this picture. I like it. It shows a part of Abita that’s gone now, and one day people will probably be amazed that the Pullman cars were even there. The stuff of legends spoken of by the elders.

Annie at the Fair


Life is short and you might as well enjoy when you can. This is with the Canon 5d mk ii that I bought back in 2009. I still use that fairly often and have learned to adjust it for maximum benefit. I’ve taken thousands of photos with this camera. I also owned a Canon 1DX for a time –  as a university in photography training. But when push came to shove, it just wasn’t a fun camera to use and mainly good for technical shots. I sold it. Annie the chicken lady here, from the fair at St. Mary Magdalen which is shockingly and wonderfully huge.


Photos are important, even if they’re not always perfect. People need to know their story, where they came from, where they’re going. The photos that I have are (very slowly) being made into photo books, for parishioners want them, to know about the times here; the beautiful people, the wonderful works the Lord is doing here, now, in this place.

One day someone may still have one of those photobooks and be able to look at a part of the history here and give thanks for the good things the Lord has done – knowing that people have lived, suffered, struggled, and have experienced victories, tragedies, glories – everything life has to offer – all whilst being faithful to the Lord God Almighty in our tiny little church here, with a Pastor who has very poor grammar.


To that end I wonder about my next camera. While I have somewhat of an investment in Canon, (they’re used by the most award winning photographers the world o’er), the fact is that eventually, everything is going to mirrorless technology.

I did do a slight upgrade during a sale. But soon enough mirrorless will become better. It’s an investment any way you look at it. And if I can enjoy the end of an era with what I already have then why not make the most of things and enjoy it? After all, Nikon just came out with the drool-worthy D850, causing camera envy the world o’er. It’s not mirrorless. These companies aren’t about to leave their DSLR customers and their investments high and dry.

To Wrap Things Up Here

I’m going to work on my books and wait for better things to be established – because they’re currently not established enough for me to figure out.

Rumor has it Canon’s coming out with a major mirrorless thing. Of course Nikon will too. And Sony. And Fuji. And Pentax. And everyone else, and the guy down the street and everyone and anyone who makes smartphones. Who’ll be best then? Huh?

I can wait.

As always, Blessed be the Lord now and forever. Saint Francis Xavier, pray for us.