Convention ? Conventional ? Not If I can help it !

Last weekend me and the wife went to a party. A very special party which by most standards let me tell you was quite something. It was a Golden Wedding Anniversary and Staff Party combined given for about 1700 people. So special was this party that the Company responsible for the catering was so proud of their achievement in producing a three course sit down meal for said number of guests that they produced a marketing video to show on You Tube. Just watching this video brings a lump to my throat in remembering the evening………… and I was just a guest !

Me and the Mrs with matching trousers !

The invite to this party which arrived several weeks ago placed no dress restriction on the guests other than with it being a Golden Wedding Anniversary suggested a hint of Gold and to ‘look fabulous’, the interpretation of which was open. After much deliberation the wife and I decided we’d dress smart and casual for a warm summer evening. Now I’m not normally someone who likes to stand out from the crowd but then again I’m not a suit and tie, dickie bow and cumberbund man either. Frankly I’d rather dress up as Coco the clown than wear those things ( some might say I did do? ). It’s just not me and it’s not the Mrs either. So in taking up the Gold theme I got myself some yellow chinos which I knew I’d wear again and pushed the boat out with some cheap and cheerful Gold LED trainers off Ebay. The shirt I’ve had about two years and being vaguely goldish fitted the bill perfectly. So the get up didn’t really cost me much at all.

However arriving at the doo I immediately began to regret my fashion enterprise. I kinda stuck out like a sore thumb and I have to say I could feel some odd looks from both men and women. Not from people that knew me but from strangers. Strangers who’d stuck to some unwritten convention and were in the main wearing suits, jackets, Dickie bows and cumberbunds etc. I even got a couple of comments, one of which suggested I’d dressed down and the other from a man who queried whether I’d come as the clown, ‘did I do turns?’ he queried. How rude ! By the time we got into the massive and sumptuously decorated marquee ( a posh tent ) I was feeling slightly nervous and anxiety had kicked in the point where I was wondering where my appetite had disappeared to. It took a glass of wine to settle down and begin to enjoy myself and dismiss any negative vibes that I might be feeling. As it was I got more positive comments than negative but sometimes if you’re not a wholly confident person you always focus on the negatives instead of the positives don’t you ?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this little episode this week. It’s no use saying I didn’t give a shit about what others thought or how I looked because clearly I did otherwise I wouldn’t be talking about it now would I ? and It wouldn’t have played on my mind ?

The thing is, I don’t do convention or the conventional. I positively strive against it and the older I get the less conventional I’m determined and want to become and this applies to my photography. Simply put I don’t want my photography to be like everyone else’s. I don’t want to have to play by the rules of others If I don’t have to, written or unwritten. Nobody pushed the boundaries by being conventional and the same applies to photography. It was an important reminder to me.

Drinking in the morning sun

I’m not quite sure why I like this shot but I do. Maybe it’s the lighting, the blue sky or the two figures sat down at each edge which give the composition balance ? The two boys stood on the rocks or the white dog in the middle which stands out from the scene and almost looks sculptural in its pose ? It’s my kind of landscape image. On a clear night from that vantage point you can see the glow of the city lights of Manchester in front of you and Sheffield to the right. I’m lucky to live within a ten minute drive of this escarpment in the Peak District National Park. I’m lucky and I know it. I’ve been thinking about luck just recently. Feeling lucky is a state of mind and believe you me I’m a lucky man.

Teaching T- Shirts

“Look” I said to my learners on the taster morning “I’m not knocking that kind of photography, if someone wants to photograph a host of golden daffodils on a hillside then that’s fine. If they want to photograph beautiful sunsets or a herd of wildebeest rushing majestically over the horizon  then I’m ok with that and I’ll help them do that but let me tell you, photography can be just so much more than that and after over thirty years of using a camera and studying this thing then It’s just not what I personally do. And I’m not here to tell you what a great photographer I think I am because to be perfectly honest with you I don’t think I am. I compare myself with the very best, the Masters of photography which most people have never heard of and in that respect I’m quite average.”

“well what do you do?” asked one of the punters

So I showed them some of my work. I’m not sure they got it ?

 

 

Teaching Photography

I’ve just completed a morning’s teaching session. It was a free “Taster” for the Photography for Beginners Course I’m running in October. I try and teach in the Adult Learning Sector. I say “try” because I’m still not sure whether I’m a successful teacher or not. I’ve had some good feedback in the past so I guess I must be doing something reasonably right but it’s not for me to say whether I’m a good teacher or not. The proof of course is how my leaners learn, whether and how  they progress. Most of my learners come to my classes with a super duper digital camera they’ve bought but not quite plucked up the courage and confidence to get it out of Auto or Program Mode. The Manual is usually as thick as a brick and in several different languages and assumes that the new owner knows what an Aperture and a Shutter Speed is and the difference between white balance and ISO etc. That’s where I enter the room. I have to go right back to basics and I mean right back. Exactly how one explains Aperture and Shutter Speed and how they combine to create a “correct” exposure you’d think would be relatively straightforward but you’d be wrong. Thinking the best way to explain the concept  is not easy. Even the filling the bucket of water analogy can be problematic when one learner queries what about water pressure coming through the hose ?  Sometimes I think they’re doing it deliberately. I had one lady adamant there was no correct exposure meter indication when in manual mode despite me showing it her in the camera manual and suggesting she just needed to find the setting on her camera. As this was a taster session I was not even going near Exposure Compensation ! I think I’m patient. My learners have very different learning abilities and I still remember how long it took  me for the exposure penny to drop in my early twenties. I pretty much taught myself.  I don’t mind that they don’t at first get it because I’ll keep explaining it to them until they do in whatever simplified way I can. Keep it simple stupid. Cameras these days are not easy either. While they’ve become easier to get the perfectly exposed shot the multitude of function buttons all doing pretty much the same thing i.e. setting aperture and shutter (landscape, portrait. sport mode etc)  are confusing and intimidating to the unknowing. Many learners in their enthusiasm jump ahead of themselves and want to know what the thing is before I’ve explained the thing they need to know in order to understand the what the thing is, if you get my meaning. How do you explain how depth of field is achieved for example without first explaining the different combinations of aperture and shutter speed to create exposure and then going on to explain how the choice of aperture affects the depth of field and has to be considered in your choice. I’m not asking for help here folks. After three or four years I’ve pretty much got it sorted but it’s not always easy.

I finished off by showing some of my less challenging work. Trying to explain that photography is not just weddings and portraits is another eye opener for new learners.

Make Art not War !

DSCF0534

I’ve managed to get out with the camera today.  A little place out of town has had its Annual Armed Forces Day. I took the dog. It’s like a summer fete but here with the emphasis on celebrating our Armed Forces. I thought I might get a “Make Love Not War – See driver for Details” car sticker but not a chance of it. I went a couple of years back so I pretty much knew the kind of shots I was going to get and was looking for. Still I’m always open for the unexpected and basically whatever catches my eye. In my notebook list of things to look out for I have t-shirts. I’m drawn to the odd t-shirts that people wear and slowly building up a bit of a collection of t-shirt photos. I asked this young lady and her parents If I could take a picture, stressing I wanted the t-shirt and not the girl’s face. I wanted to protect her identity. I wanted a generic t-shirt shot but I love the way the girl’s smile is repeated in the curve of the writing “I’ve got” and the top line of the square. Yeah I’m rather pleased with this image.