Why I love photography.
Obviously there is much more to being a greeting card publisher than just the creative role, but that is, if I am honest, the best bit for me and so the subject of this blog entry.
I am often asked what it is that I love about photography and, African photography in particular. I have never really thought about the answer in depth. My role at Wildcards encompasses both photographer and publisher. I began publishing cards as a way to share my photographs and now enjoy all the different aspects of publishing but, my first love will always be photography and, although I photograph many different subjects, Africa and her wildlife will always be my favourite.
What is it I love about Africa? First of all, I love being away from the modern world, cut off from the interminable bad news on the tv and radio. I forget all about everything, work, deadlines, all the sorts of things that take up my headspace. When I am away I don’t worry about my appearance or what anyone else thinks of me or what I ought to be doing. I just get a tremendous sense of peace and wellbeing once I am away from home under African skies.
I am up before dawn and often out until dark. The weather is warm, dry and dusty and there is a raw beauty to the wilderness. Nature is a great leveller. To me it quickly becomes apparent that all that truly matters in life is the reality of nature which is being played out in front of our eyes. I find it very grounding. As human beings we are all living on the edge just like any other animal. This was brought home to me on a recent trip I was on in Botswana when a man went missing in the bush after the supply truck he was driving broke down and he (against all survival advice) left the vehicle and went looking for help. He was then at the mercy of nature in just the same way that any other animal would be, needing to find food and water in the arid landscape, he also needed to avoid becoming a meal for a predator. Very fortunately he was found after an intense two day search hidden up a tree, badly dehydrated and surrounded by lions. We get no special dispensation for being humans and this brought it home to me that there is an element of risk just being out in the bush but it is one that I would far rather take than the kind of risks that we face every day in the modern world.
I love the process of taking photographs – I lose all sense of time and just concentrate on what is in front of my eyes. With wildlife photography it is necessary to think very quickly in order to keep camera settings at their optimum for the pictures you want to create as the scene is often changing in front of your eyes – an animal is moving or interacting with another or the light is changing or the animal is moving from the sun to the shade, you have to keep an eye out for distractions in the frame to avoid a messy background as well as trying to create artistic compositions and keep the areas that you want in focus in focus, you have to watch your aperture to ensure you have sufficient depth of field and your shutter speed to achieve whatever effect you are looking for. It is all engrossing and brings tremendous satisfaction and, on top of all, that you are seeing incredible creatures that are often rare and endangered.
It is not all fun, sometimes sightings can be hard to watch. Seeing a chase is always a thrill but it is very hard to see another animal loosing its life. It is not something one sees everyday but one certainly does see quite gory sights as one animal feeds on another. I have also seen animals in a pitiful state due to lack of water such as this hippo which should have moved out of the area but left it too late. This was really heart-breaking as there was almost certainly no hope for him.
Over the last few years we have taken to spending more time camping in the bush rather than staying in lodges. Whilst it is lovely to have that comfort there is also something special about sleeping under canvas with the stars overhead and the campfire to sit round at the end of a long day game driving. And then just before sleeping whilst lying in my tent I can hear the sounds of the bush, the snorting of hippos, the call of hyenas and, if we are lucky the amazing sound of lions roaring, it is truly magical. Bush-showers and loos add to the experience of really being back to nature and though it is always lovely to come back home and start processing, I always feel a sense of loss when I leave the bush.
Once back home I begin the editing process – the first time I download my pictures and really see what I have captured is a time of great excitement and is almost as good as being there. I normally take thousands of photographs and so editing is an important part of a trip. Having cleared out the rubbish I can see what I have left and then start the processing. There are those who think that images should not be ‘Photoshopped’ but what comes out of the camera is basically just a negative – it still needs to be adjusted for contrast, colour balance etc before it becomes the finished image. For me watching the final image emerge is almost as much fun as taking the picture in the first place.
So that it what I love about my job, how about you?