Thursday, 5 August 2010

TIME TO STOP - Life's balance

When I first began to take photos for magazines, I saw each published success as an amazing 'one-of.'  Invited to write my first article for East Lothian Life, I certainly did NOT think of myself then as a 'professional photographer.' Having spent most of my life admiring natural history photographers like Laurie Campbell, I could not imagine myself ever coming close to his 'brilliance' in wildlife photography.

Ironically then, a 'Eureka moment' was to see the photos Laurie deleted from his camera. I remember laughing at a very blurry shot and saying "I could do that!" It was an inspirational moment of realisation. Suddenly my photography 'hero' was not a person who miraculously took wonderful shots, instead I saw how incredibly dedicated he was to put himself in to the right place, at the right time. Consistently, Laurie is working to build his experience, gaining the skills required to be able to capture great photos. Photography then is like anything else - it's what happens behind the scenes, you create your own 'luck' through your dedication to learning. Playing a musical instrument, excelling at a sport, painting a beautiful picture - taking a great photograph, it is all about dedication... So I proved to myself (over several weeks) with many repeat attempts to capture a spectacular field of poppies in full bloom at Aberlady, East Lothian.

Finally, at 'my Poppy Field' I got some lovely shots and a magazine cover which I was pleased with. Yet, from that experience I also realised, it was time to take the big financial leap and comit to my hobby with a camera upgrade (to a Nikon D200). Nevertheless, I still have great affection for my early Poppy photos because they show what can be achieved with a basic camera and determination. Now, so often asked about Photoshop, I confirm I am not using this. I can understand its benefits but still, I currenly prefer to focus my learning on my Nikon - I believe that, if I take short cuts in my learning process, (in the long-run) I'll be doing myself no favours. In addition, Photoshop can so alter a photo that it bears no resemblance to the scene's reality and - I see that as false and also I think, is that not a shame? When there is so much beauty in the natural environment. I believe it should be appreciated as it is, not manipulated in to some new computer generated reality. I will crop a photo to make it a panorama shot or, focus in on some specific aspect to 'point the viewer' towards the element of the photo I want to discuss but, other than that - I prefer mother nature to be the scenic artist with light and weather combining to colour the scene.

Yesterday, at Arthur Sea, what rich light there was in the evening sunshine. A friend contacted me to say "the hill's on fire - great atmospheric shots?" I left my house and went to investigate. The fire had been put out and so, "a wasted journey?" No, I doubted that - I was sure I could get some nice photos if I just looked around me. Previously, as a volunteer ranger at the park, I recalled that there were some good views of the hill from the park's visitor centre.

The area at the centre was all in shade. Yet, that seemed to make the sunlight on the hill even warmer and the shadows were so pronounced. By looking around it was certainly not a wasted journey and it also gave me an idea for a future visit. The light seemed to direct me to the Radical Road and I thought yes, not been there for a year or so, a good location for a future visit. Finally, turning away from my photos, I then met a man with a Jack Russell dog (looking almost identical to the one I used to have). So, after a 'good blether', it seemed time for home but worth a once round drive along the 'top road' at the park (maybe for some sunset photos?). And sure enough, I was not dissapointed and there, ended up talking to a tourist - also enjoying the view.

My evening did not go as planned, I went to the supermarket a bit later, I didn't watch TV I and I left the wash up of yesterday's dishes to do this morning whilst waiting for my porridge to cook. I once said to a friend, if he wasn't happy with his life he should change it - often, we don't need to make BIG differences to improve the quality of our life. Life is made up by all the small choices we make hour by hour, day by day, year by year. Sitting up Arthur Seat last night, watching the sunset I was again reminded of the poem by W H Davies. Indeed, it seems to me that a happy life is all about balance. We need to do the important things but hey, if it's a lovely sunset - maybe it is better to enjoy it and wash the dishes tomorrow. Taking time to enjoy a sunset is never time wasted for me, it's about appreciating the time we have. If I could be granted the smallest wish it would be that every reader of my Blog takes atleast the time for one evening in their coming week to stop, chill out, watch a sunset and reflect on all that is positive in their life.

What is this life
If full of care
We have no time
To stand and stare
No time to stand
Beneath the boughs
And stare as long
As sheep and cows

No time to see
When woods we pass
Where squirrels hide
Their nuts in grass
No time to turn
At beauty's glance
And watch her feet
How they do dance

No time to wait
Until her mouth
Enriches that smile
Her eyes began
A poor life this
If, full of care
We have no time
To stand and stare

(W H Davies)

First sunset photographed in September 2007
at Port Seton harbour with my Nikon D200 - 

Thanks mum! :-)


  1. Beautiful photography! How did you get your first photo published? I just had my first picture published in our local paper (A surfer in motion). However I would not know how to go about submitting for magazine publication!

  2. Lisa - my first photos were published because I was invited to write an article for a magazine. I needed photos to illustrate that article and, if I took my own photos then I knew that they were going to be better suited to reflect the specific aspect of the article that I wanted to illustrate. Then in time, I began to submit my own photo suggestions for magazine covers. And then, more and more as they were accepted, the magazine came to me asking for photos. I would point out that this did not all happen over night but it was great fun developing the skills I required and learning more and more with each photographic challenge that I met. It did take a LOT of VERY hard work on my part but I LOVED what I was doing so it was well worth it! Photography is all about planning - thinking about what makes a good photo and how to capture the vision that you see in your mind's eye. And then it takes patience, going back again, and again, and AGAIN until you capture that image!