Chinatown Merchant, San Francisco | Mark Lindsay

It started out to be a curious, little problem. My Nikon's navigation button on the back of the camera was acting strangely. First it worked and then it didn't and then it worked again. This was followed by a hissy fit which was then followed by complete unresponsiveness. It reminded me of a few girlfriends from my youth. I looked at it, I held it, and then I shook my head. I didn't know quite what to do.

I figured if I put it aside for a few days that all would be well and things would return to normal. They never did. The button contacts inside the camera were clearly corroded and needed cleaning or replacement. So, one by one, I took off all the attachments and accessories. I removed the lens. I wrapped up the camera and took it off to the UPS Store for it to be shipped back to Nikon. I went home and the house felt empty.

I had an old backup camera to use while my camera spent a month in Southern California. But, it wasn't the same. Cameras become extensions of ourselves and they must become so familiar that we barely realize that we're using them. A foreign camera, even an old one that was once used daily, feels clumsy and awkward after time. So, the old camera sat and so did I.

Finally, for what seemed to be eons, the good news arrived. A tech rep called and said that my camera had been repaired and shipped. It would arrive at my doorstep in two days! I waited all day for the diesel sound of the UPS truck. My parcel finally arrived and the camera was as good as new. However, I wasn't.

The first time I took the camera out for an extended shoot it felt strange to be a photographer. I felt rusty and dull, as if I'd slept too long the night before—or maybe not at all. I walked around San Francisco's Chinatown as if I were walking inside a foggy dream. My reflexes were slow. I had a hard time finding the very buttons that had given up the ghost a month before.

Slowly it all came back to me. But it reminded me how important my camera is to me and, more importantly, how important it is to get out and use it. We cannot call ourselves photographers if we don't use our cameras. It is so terribly easy to put our equipment aside and get absorbed by the distractions of life. A fallow week leads to a month. And then things get worse from there.

There is nothing more important to a photographer than to pick up his or her camera, point it and click the shutter. Good photo or bad, it's the act that's important. Photographers photograph. It's that simple.