Is Photography a Fun Hobby?

Smile Please...

The funny side of photography - A lot of people take their hobbies very seriously, and photography is no exception to this rule. Some take it far too seriously, but others, like me, have learnt to relax and just go with the flow. I some times think there is a kind of zen to photography. If the picture wants to be taken, you will be there in right place, at the right time, with your camera. Others try to force pictures that don’t want to be taken, and get really annoyed when things don’t work out. Yet, like all hobbies, the idea is to have fun. Photography should be fun, and not a constant battle against the elements and technology.

Four Weddings and a Funeral

People love pictures of people, but to actually take some person’s picture, who is not a model is probably one of the hardest things on the planet to do. And of course, if people think you are half decent with a camera, they will invite you to take their wedding pictures. If you take their offer up, it probably the most stressful thing that you will ever do. Refuse, nicely of course, and it’s as if you have stabbed them right through the heart. It’s a no win situation. People act strangely at weddings; it’s a combination of a mixture of emotions, big hats and liberal amounts of alcohol.

Have you ever tried to get a large group of people together for a picture? Great aunty Nelly, half drunk on four glasses of buck-fizz (she thought it was orange juice), keeps wandering off to chat up the vicar, the cute three-year old flower girl want to go wee-wee right now, and half the bride’s family hate the other half, and will not stand together. That’s just one shot. Times that stress by at least 100 images, and you have the life of a wedding photographer. Step back from this slice of human life, and see it from the funny side, and it can be very humorous.

I have only once had to photograph a funeral, which was of a local famous person. It didn’t feel quite right in a respectful sort of way. You don’t know how you should approach taking the pictures without offending people.

The horse drawn funeral cortege slowly made its way up the main street to the church with the friends and relations walking respectfully behind. As they passed, I turned to take a picture of the mourners, when I noticed that one of the leading family members had in the rush to get the funeral tucked the back of her black skirt into the her pink flowery panties, and was totally oblivious of the fact. To make matters worse, the people behind her had not told her either. I had tears rolling down my cheeks, not out of grief, but out of careful contained laughter.

God Bless the Little Children

Second only to weddings, taking pictures of children can bring moments of great pleasure and sheer frustration. Getting the little darlings to pose for the camera can be very frustrating and highly amusing. It can also get you into a lot of trouble too. People get very funny these days of adults taking pictures of kids.

In Euro Disney, just outside Paris, I was told off in no uncertain terms by a very irate English parent, because she thought I was trying to photograph her children. I was in fact taking pictures of my own kids sitting in the seat directly in front of hers on the same ride! Some people take protecting their children too far. But, there were no apologies for her outburst.

Back in the pre-digital days when you got your films developed at a shop, I had the local child care authorities around my house accusing me of child cruelty. My son use to push himself around as a toddler in a baby walker. He had the habit of rolling up to the open washing machine door, and pull funny faces through the glass door. Of course it was prime material for a photograph, which I took, and then sent the film for processing. The person developing the films thought that I had actually put my son in the washing machine, closed the door and took pictures of him in there. I had to persuade my son to show the child care authorities what he did before they believed me.

Buildings have minds of their own

How hard can it be to take a picture of a building? Harder than you think if you have been asked to do it for an estate agent or client. Okay, buildings don’t get drunk, wander off or have their parents tell you off. Yet to get a decent picture can be both frustrating and funny. I was asked to take some pictures of a local building that looked a bit like Darth Vader’s helmut. No problem I thought. I didn’t take into account the sun reflecting off the other office windows and the hundreds of cars in the carpark obscuring part of the view. Again, no problem I thought, I will go on a Sunday when there is no cars and at a later time in the day, to lessen the sun reflections.

The first Sunday it was torrential rain, and the second Sunday, the thickest fog ever. The third Sunday, the weather was perfect with nice white fluffy clouds, so I raced up to the location, only to find that the entire building had been covered in ugly scaffolding! That darn building didn’t want its photograph taking at all.

Nighttime shots of buildings can be just as difficult too. Long exposures mean that you have to be wary of traffic trails and getting the lighting right. Another office and another photograph contract, this time for a night shot, which I specialise in. However, this particular building had a real mind of its own.

The building was fitted with ultra modern motion sensitive lighting, which turned the lights off after several minutes of detecting no movement. So we had to run into this four story building, starting at the top floor, and turn each floor’s lights on, and then race outside to get a shot of the building fully illuminated. I had less than two minutes to take the picture before the lights started to turn off.

It took 2 hours and several shots to get it right. In the end, we worked out that we couldn’t turn the lights on from the top floor to the bottom. No, it was not that easy. First you had to turn on floor three, run down to the ground floor and turn the lights on there, up to the top floor, then finally turn on floor two’s lights. What a performance, but very funny looking back at it.

Weather or Not

The weather can make or break any picture. Get it right and you have a masterpiece, but more often or not the weather will not do what you want. Back in the winter of 1998/1999, I was asked by the Isle of Man Post Office to take a picture of the sunrise at the most easterly point of the Island, with the sun rising over the lighthouse on the headland at Maughold Head.

This was going to be the centre piece of their 2000 millennium year stamp issue. For four weeks during the last two weeks of 1998, and first two weeks of 1999, I drove to the same location every morning before dawn, then climb over the rocks in the twilight ready to photograph the sunrise.

Most days it was really cloudy, and the sun never appeared, but I did manage to get two half decent shots, but nothing that spectacular. They use one of the photographs on the stamp, but it wasn’t in my mind, the best you could get.

One year on, I was still up after a 2000 millennium New Year’s party, so I decided to take my camera back to Maughold Head to take the actual dawn of the new millennium. Unbelievably, this was the best sunrise I had seen for many years, filling the whole sky with brilliant yellows and reds. I took the perfect picture of the sunrise, and stood back just to admire the view. At that moment, just behind me on the cliff tops, a lone bagpiper had arrived to pipe in the new millennium. I have to admit, that perfect sunrise and ‘amazing grace’ on the bagpipes brought a huge smile to my face (and a tear to my eye too).

It’s not only the people on the other side of the lens that need to smile. You, the photographer, have to smile too. Have fun with your pictures.

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