Columnist gives a camera lesson to photography professor.
Photography professor shown how to use a camera
“Faux Pas” - French a slip in speech, conduct, or manners, etc.; breach of etiquette; blunder. (Gage Canadian Dictionary).
In my case, back in the summer of 2007, it was all of the above. And it all happened on a beautiful, sunny August afternoon, in the picturesque village of Margaree Harbour.
Located about 18 miles north of the town of Inverness, Margaree Harbour was once a busy commercial port, back in the days before the opening of the Canso Causeway. Today, it is a mostly rural community with two lighthouses, a church, a beautiful sandy beach, and the splendid backdrop of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in the distance.
The nerve centre of this lovely pastoral setting is “Laurence’s Store,” an old-fashioned general store and post office that is owned by Fletcher Laurence. Whenever I am over to that part of our island, I always stop in at the store for an ice cream, and to catch up on the local news with Fletcher himself. On that particular day I had just returned from Cheticamp on my motorcycle, and was preparing to leave Margaree Harbour and head for my home in North Sydney.
Before leaving I decided to take some pictures, and while doing so I was approached by an older gentleman, who had just come from the general store, after picking up his mail. He stopped to take a look at my black motorcycle and, like most people, asked if it was a Harley-Davidson.
I explained that it was not a “Harley,” but rather a Yamaha, a Yamaha “Midnight Venture,” to give it its full name. Since he was obviously very interested in the bike, I showed him the various controls, and explained that it had a 1300 cc, 4-cylinder engine, that put out more than 100 horsepower.
I also showed him the cruise control, the stereo with four speakers, the CB radio, and the old fashioned cassette player, located in the centre of the dash. He smiled, when I told him that although it was a “fully-loaded” touring motorcycle, it had no air conditioning! He said that his name was George Thomas, and that he lived in the old farmhouse just across the road. He then explained that it was a summer home, and that he spent the winter months on Nantucket Is- land, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He was a retired teacher, and had been coming to Margaree Harbour since the early 1970s, when he fell in love with the village, and purchased the abandoned farm that is now his seasonal home.
When he explained that he had always wanted to own a motorcycle, but never had one, I asked if he would like to sit on the bike. I then gave him my helmet, and asked if he would mind if I took a few pictures. He agreed, but only on the condition that he would also take a few pictures of me on my bike.
Before I passed over my two Canon cameras, I explained that one was an early model digital camera, very primitive and fully automatic. I also showed him how to operate my “good” camera, a professional level Canon, with both manual and automatic settings. I said that this particular camera was the latest in Japanese camera technology.
I should have known, from the way that he held and operated both cameras, that he was not an amateur photographer. This man knew what he was doing, and it was obvious that he was enjoying himself.
As our photography session ended, I explained that I was a retired guidance counsellor, and used to teach photography at night school. When I asked what he taught, and where, he smiled and replied: “I am a retired professor of photography, and I taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Cambridge, Mass.”
It was my “Faux Pas” moment. I had just given basic instructions, on how to use a camera, to a professor of photography at one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world. Needless to say, I was slightly embarrassed, but we both had a good laugh.
(Note: MIT, with an enrollment of more than 11,000, is a private research university in Boston, which specializes in applied science and engineering. It is often listed among the world’s top universities.)
Fletcher Lawrence shows the storage capacity of this antique wooden desk in his office. It is well over 100 years old.
George Thomas tries out my Yamaha touring bike on Main street in Margaree Harbour, with Lawrence’s General Store on the left.
Here I am in Margaree Harbour, with the Acadian village of Belle Cote on the right, and the Cape Breton Highlands National Park on the horizon.