(Published in Photo Technique, Spring 2013)
'What do all these buttons do again?!'
So went my text message to Keith Aggett earlier today, suddenly finding myself alone in a wet and muddy field, camera in hand and innapropriate flip-flops (foolish given yesterday's downpour) adorning my feet. A combination of incessant rainfall with no respect for the season, home decorating, family commitments, long hours at work (I manage a team doing twelve hour shifts and it's surprising how often twelve can become sixteen), and my own general dislike for summer imagery had left me precious little time to get out and take any photographs. In fact, it's fair to say I was feeling slightly disconnected - not good for any photographer - although I was pleased to note it didn't take long before my camera began to feel reassuringly familiar in my grasp, apparently forgiving me for it's period of impromptu hibernation.
My phone rang in response. Answering it, Keith's query of "You're out shooting then mate?" was met with a spluttering cough before I could reply properly. Oh, didn't I mention above the cold I'm recovering from? No? Oh well, never mind... Keith's revelation that there was some excellent racing cloud (LE practitioners will understand) where he currently was in Exeter - some twenty miles from me - didn't do a great deal to inspire, although several minutes into our conversation and I suddenly cut him off with the news that the singularly ominous, dramatic bank of cloud I'd been waiting to head nearer was gaining position...
'That cloud is full of rain. I'm now wet.'
That was exactly how my next text message read. Determined to embrace the stalwart British tradition of perseverance, I ignored my sodden shirt and the rain dripping from my nose (at least I think it was rain - damn that cold), keen on removing the lens cap now that the shower had moved on. Quickly assembling my ND filter lens housing, eager to capture something of the remaining brooding sky without the threat of droplets ruining the shot, I turned briefly to see an enormous dog bounding towards me. I mean enormous. Had I meant big, or slightly larger than average I would have said so. This dog was clearly related to The Hound Of The Baskervilles, and looking beyond it I could see it had two similarly apportioned siblings - both of which seemed unsure whether to rush me or bide their ground in case the first one failed to take me out alone, a feat that seemed highly likely at that point. I barely had time to register it's unseen owner's shout of beckoning as the animal skidded to a halt, it's intended leap limited to just two dirty pawprints on my jeans. I didn't care - I was alive! It's not that I don't like dogs - far from it in fact, I had my own for a good ten years and intend to get another eventually. It's just that in my experience, most dog owner's I encounter when I'm out taking shot's seem to assume that everyone else loves their pet too. The number of times I've had to loft my backpack high to stop some beast urinating on it, or shout at one myself as an insidious hind leg begins to cock itself against my tripod - while simultaneously the owner remains conveniently oblivious. Perhaps next time I'll run after the person concerned, jumping up at them and popping a flash unit in their face manically! At least on this occasion the owner did make some half-mumbled words of apology as he trudged by with his trotting trio of Satan, Lucifer and Beelzebub... Looking down I realised I'd been stood all the time just inches away from a pile of what I shall politely describe as canine excrement, judging by the size of which I (perhaps unfairly) attributed to my new four-legged friend.
Deciding it was time to try a different subject from the telegraph poles it had been my intent to capture (I haven't yet reviewed the images but feel I will be lucky if I nailed the shot), I went on to a second nearby site where I've tried several times to shoot a particular item. Minutes after I got out of the car it started to rain again, leading me to take shelter beneath some overhanging trees at the side of a path, crouching down to gain better cover and trying not to let my resolve weaken. A second dog walker passed me by, eyeing me suspiciously in my lair as I raised a hand in the universal symbol of 'I'm ok, really I am.' Several email checks later, a quick game of Angry Birds and a catch up on my flickr contact's recent uploads and the rain suddenly cleared. Hurrying on to my destination, I was confronted by the newly revealed sun placed directly behind my subject - creating huge contrasts and glare. I did actually set up my gear, frame everything up, focus and get my filters and cable release ready hoping for a fresh bout of obscuring cloud but it wasn't to be. That didn't happen until half an hour or so later when I was back in my car heading for home...
Nobody said landscape photography was easy! It isn't, but all of you I'm sure have had occasions like these - and I'm sure you'll agree the good times are all the more sweet because of them. Yin and yang in all things.
Consequently, this shot is one from my archives taken almost a year ago on a day when things went my way a little more easily...
On a separate note, I'm happy to announce my 'Snake' image (elsewhere on my photostream) was a Nominee in the Fine Art category of the recent international Black & White Spider Awards - www.thespiderawards.com/. It's my first year of entering and I submitted two images in just the one category, so am pleased with the outcome. Congratulations also to Keith Aggett (he's like a bad penny!) for similar recognition in the competition, alongside Bill Allen, Marina Chen, Michael Diblicek, Gavin Dunbar, Robert Moran, and Vassilis Tangoulis who all also enjoyed success(es). My sincere apologies to anyone I've inadvertently missed.