Several years ago I went to Alaska with some friends, and one of the things we did while we were there was hike up to the Harding Ice Field near Seward. On the way we saw a bear browsing among some berry bushes beside the trail. It was not a huge bear, maybe 500 pounds. But then, a 200-pound bear will kill you just as dead as a 900-pound bear will, so I guess this one was plenty big.Just like everyone else along the trail, I got my camera out and took some pictures of the bear. And so did Randy Young and Phil Chavanne. Only my version of ‘taking a few pictures of the bear’ was a lot different from their version. I took maybe five pictures. They took maybe five rolls. Apiece.The difference was because they’re photographers, and I’m not. If you don’t know what you’re doing it doesn’t take near as long to get it done. Granted, my pictures weren’t anywhere near as good as theirs, but I got mine taken a lot faster, so it evens out.Plus, they both stood there and stared through their viewfinders at the bear while it wandered closer and closer, forgetting, I guess, that objects looked at through a small hole are much closer than they appear. When Randy finally glanced over his camera at the bear it was about five feet away. And it looked at them and woofed. And then went back to eating berries.If you hear Randy and Phil tell it you might think they were nearly eaten and digested before they realized how close they were to the bear, but I don’t think it was all that dangerous. Of course, I wouldn’t know, since I was half a mile up the trail by that time, having given up on the photographers and gone on. For all I know they’re still there.Another reason Randy and Phil are a lot slower at photography than I am is that their cameras have lots of levers and meters and knobs and buttons and switches that have to be adjusted and read and turned and mashed and flipped before it’s time to actually take a photo. If I had to do all that just to snap one pic I’d throw the thing over my shoulder and go on.The camera I was using was, near as I can recall, one of those disposable types you pick up while you’re standing in line at Wal-Mart to pay for your ammunition and toothpaste. Those are good if you’re prone to losing stuff and breaking stuff and dropping stuff, like I am, but they aren’t known for taking your top of the line, magazine quality photos. They’re for quick photographers, like me.Now, I might have gone to a little more trouble taking pictures of the bear if I’d had a decent camera, like Randy and Phil, but I didn’t. When I asked my wife, before that trip, if I could take the ‘good’ camera along, she said no. She always says no. I tell her I see some great stuff and I need to take some nice photos, but she still says no. She doesn’t trust me to take her camera into wilderness areas on adventures and being it home in one piece. She’s no dummy, that wife of mine.But a while back I managed to solve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction, because I got hold of a SeaLife Dive & Sport Mini, a 9 mega pixel digital camera that takes great pictures, but is simple enough even for me to use. Plus it’s tough as a two dollar steak, and you can’t drown it. It’s exactly the camera I would have invented, if I’d invented a camera.Most cameras that claim to be waterproof will leak if you take them more than about ten feet deep. This one beats that by 120 feet. Not that I plan to try that out, but you never know.The Mini is also very durable. It’s got a rubber coating that makes it kind of bounce when you drop it on a concrete floor. I do that once in a while, just for fun. I’ll ask someone to take my picture, and then drop the camera as I hand it to them. OK, it’s lame, but I get bored.Matter of fact, this camera is so tough, you can run over it. If you go to the SeaLife website you can watch a video made by a Mini while it’s being run over by a Jeep Wrangler, with both left tires. It never misses a beat. You can’t see much most of the time, except the underside of the Jeep, but there you go.My favorite part, though, is that the controls are simple and easy to use. I don’t have to spend all day twiddling things, and the Mini turns on in just a few seconds. It also takes AA batteries and uses a standard SD card, so you don’t have to have any special stuff for it.If you go hunting and fishing in places where your wife won’t let you take her camera, you need a SeaLife Mini. I don’t know how it would do if a bear got hold of it, but if that happens you’ll probably have more to worry about than your camera.The Mini doesn’t come with a case, so when my wife and I were in Best Buy a while back I told her I was going to get one. She said, “Why do you need a case for an indestructible camera?” She’s no dummy, that wife of mine . .
.Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has learned to keep his finger off the camera lens. Almost. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org