There is ongoing work being done by Jeff Epler to bring the cameras to CircuitPython. There is an excellent tutorial available here: https://learn.adafruit.com/capturing-camera-images-with-circuitpython
But this is not all. Right now Jeff is working on a way to produce animated GIF images directly from the camera, and save them to the SD card.
There is also a way to stream the video: https://learn.adafruit.com/circuitpython-webcam-with-ov2640
So I'm confident that even if my own software experiments fail, the shield will still prove useful.