Today has been frustrating, to say the least. I have had my eye on the weather for the last couple of weeks, hoping for a break in the cold, dreary weather when I might visit a local garden which usually produces an excellent display of hellebores, one of my favourite early spring flowers. Yes, I know overcast is good for flower photography but it has been so dull recently that the images would appear flatter than flat and I knew I would struggle to achieve a manageable shutter speed with my 100mm lens. At last, today dawned as the perfect spring day, and on a day of the week when my schedule normally allows me to take a morning out to do these things. But alas, it was not to be. I had arranged for the British Heart Foundation to collect an unwanted mattress for sale in their shop. They were due to come between 9am and 1pm, so I was up at 6.45am to get me and the dogs ready and walked beforehand. By 12.45pm frustration was starting to set in. Still no sign of them. A call to the shop revealed that they had been held up and should arrive within about 45mins. I eventually gave in and had lunch, every moment expecting a knock at the door; not good for the digestion! Still no sign. A second call at 3pm elicited that they should be there within 30mins and they eventually did arrive. The final straw? Apparently I could have just left it outside for them to take… and to cap it all when I attempted to open Lightroom after their visit I was presented with an error message regarding the preview cache and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to solve the problem instead of getting any work done.
And the moral of this story? Well, by the time they arrived I was totally frustrated by wasting a day of perfect weather unnecessarily. Cue feelings of anger, frustration and the beginnings of self-pity; why does this always happen to me? I never get the first collection…I was too fed up to do anything useful and felt the whole day had been wasted. I was certainly in no mood to take any photographs! When looking at this situation from the outside, it’s a clear example of a time when negative thoughts are allowed to rise to the surface in an automatic response to adversity, however insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and we follow a habitual pattern of behaviour that is not necessarily beneficial. One of the characteristics of a contemplative approach to life is to challenge these habitual reactions and revisit their value. We cannot always change the events that life throws at us but we can change how we react to them. Looking for something positive about my day, I found an excellent article on how to optimize your computer for Lightroom. Check it out here!
In learning to see more clearly we can come to recognise opportunities when they arise and look creatively at what can be achieved. This image of a frog snapped on my mobile phone is the result of one such set of events. In the harsh weather we experienced in the winter of 2010 and early 2011 I lost a number of well-established shrubs from my garden. This created some spaces to be filled, but I was in no rush to choose new plants until the weather improved considerably.
As it turned out, this project went onto the back burner and by 2012 these spaces were still there, by this point screaming at me to do something about them. In the throes of a spring clear-out, I decided it was high time to dispose of two dustbins which I been using to make compost and leaf mould but now no longer needed. Anxious to avoid sending them to landfill, I was about to list them on Ebay (another new venture for 2012!) but then put the listing on hold as I was about to take a short holiday. Totally unrelated to this, I had spotted frogs in my garden on a number of occasions that spring and had been wondering how I might create a more amphibian-friendly area for them. Suddenly all these factors coalesced and I saw the possibility that they combined to present; I could turn one of the unwanted dustbins into a small pond on the site of one of my ex-shrubs and Hey Presto! space filled, no bin to dispose of, frogs homed and photo opportunity looming!
The bottom half of the bin was soon installed and over the summer several frogs took up residence. I saw up to five at once and was soon able to distinguish between my visitors. I soon discovered that frogs make an excellent photographic subject as when you approach them they adopt an unblinking stillness, presumably to convince advancing predators that they do not exist. Needless to say, I spent much of last summer crouched beside my makeshift pond aiming my Canon 100mm f2.8 at assorted willing models busy sunbathing on a convenient nearby stone. Oh, and I still have the other dustbin, having finally turned it into a storage bin for bark chips.
I have been interested in photography in one form or another since childhood, when the unforgettable smells of black and white film processing emanated from my father’s makeshift darkroom in our spare bedroom. I enjoy digital photography but I’m a technophobe at heart, preferring to create images in camera rather than spend hours at the computer. I have a growing collection of film cameras and love the simplicity of old folding cameras. Modern digital equipment has such complexity that it can take over the whole experience of capturing images. Working with an old film camera really is like going back to basics as there is so little to do. Instead of a whole menu to control 61 autofocus points my Bessa has 3 options; ‘people’, ‘groups’ or ‘landscapes’. There are 2 shutter speeds (unless you want bulb or timer) and 4 apertures. And as for ISOs expanding to 126,800, your choice is fixed when you load the film. Simplifying the choices for how to operate the camera leaves far more mental space to be dedicated to my subject and creating my image. And if you dont like the results, the camera itself makes a great photographic subject in itself!