Monday, 10 October 2011

When I'm (not) takin' pictures

(Please sing the title of this blog to the tune of When I’m Cleaning Windows. This has been stuck in my head intermittently since I first started thinking about writing this blog, many months ago, and I wanted to share the love. My little gift to you.)

I’ve been taking photos since I can remember. I first started wanting to take really good photos about three years ago, mostly because I had a friend who took really good photos and I wanted to be like her. I got my first good camera two years ago, and my first SLR for my birthday last year. Taking photographs has become a huge part of my life, so much so that I often dream in photos – my sleeping senses see life through a lens, and I’m often disappointed to wake up and realize that the fabulous photos I thought I’d taken were only subconscious snapshots and not reality.

This blog is also a big part of my life, and so I’ve wanted for months now to write a blog about photography… but I’ve never quite managed to get the right angle on it and to know what, exactly, to say. However, I had an experience on a weekend just gone which really bought it home to me how much my camera is now an extension of my hands and my eyes, and gave me a way in to waffling about it in an engaging and delightful manner to you guys. Aren’t you lucky?

Last weekend was the Hottest October Weekend Evar – like actually, officially, records of October temperatures were broken. And, as luck would have it, myself and two of my best friends had a trip down to Brighton planned, to celebrate one of their birthdays. What perfect timing!

The run up to the trip – including preparation time – was less perfect. I had a really busy week, and got home on the Friday night much later than I had planned to due to the bloody trains, another whole rant I could (but won’t) go into. I was dog tired – the kind of tired that makes you want to cry, the kind of tired where you feel like you have to pick your legs up with your hands to make them move. The idea of starting to pack for Brighton was making me want to self harm, but I managed to get a pile of clothes together, wrap my friend’s presents and put both my phone and my camera battery on to charge.

I then fell into bed, and got up early the next day to go swimming (yes, outdoors, I’m still doing that and it’s awesome!).

I had thought I’d have half an hour or so between getting home from swimming and heading off to Brighton in which to get my bag out of the loft and finish the packing off… and the irony is, I probably would have done, as I actually ended up getting to Victoria way early. However, I had to get petrol on the way to the pool, then I got stuck behind a slow van, then it took a while to get away from the pool, etc etc, so in the end I only got home 5 minutes before I had planned to leave for the station.

I got the bag out the loft and chucked everything in it. I picked up my camera and even thought, have I put the battery back in? And for some unknown reason, the answer my brain gave me was ‘yes.’ I don’t know why, as I hadn’t, and I am cursing myself for not checking, but there we go. Off I set to Brighton, and it was only as I was walking past some beautiful graffiti, 10 minutes out of the station, that I realized the battery was still in the charger back in London. What a tool!

I was a bit annoyed with myself, and felt bad that I’d told the birthday girl I’d be official photographer for the weekend and now couldn’t be, but I hadn’t been prepared for how much the loss of my camera would sting. Of course, this amazing, best ever sunshine didn’t help in this situation! Here are some things that would have made amazing photos from the weekend:

• The graffiti that plastered some buildings on a back street from the station to the beach; if graffiti is the right word, which I’m not sure it is. These bold, bright and beautiful murals covered walls and breathed life into an otherwise grubby looking street.

• The carousel we sat beside for hours; children and grown-ups delighting in the horses, the golds and pinks and Romany look of the façade around the top, so busy and bright and like the promise of summer.

• The seagulls that swooped overhead and perched on a metal box that housed deckchairs, courting and fighting, bigger than I expected, and greyer – quite ominous and majestic against the cloudless blue sky.

• The sea, the sea, the sea. During the day and into the night. Ripples and glints and reflections, brightly coloured sails turning black under the sun, pirate boats and windsurfs and jetskis.

• The sun, the sun, the sun. My favourite thing at the best of times, boy was he in his element this weekend. Especially at sunset, as I watched him through the pier – the oranges and golds and purples and blues that turned the pier and the people on it into black stick figures. These are the photos it most ached to miss.

• The circle of bikes that my friend’s friends made, wheels aloft, that we sat inside – the spokes divided what we saw outside them into neat segments. I could have played tricks through those spokes, so that when you looked at the photos, you didn’t know what you were seeing.   

• The view from our window, especially as it got dark and the different colours from the pier reflected in the water like God’s own oil slick.

• The dodgems – although I guess if I had wanted to take photos, I might not have been able to join in… and that was awesome fun. So maybe we’ll let that one slide.

• The red, yellow and pink balloons I saw floating across the bluest sky I’ve ever seen on Sunday morning.

• The delight in a tiny child’s face as she bounced impossibly high with toes ballerina pointed on those trampolines that are assisted by bungee cords – the wonder, dash of fear, and total curiosity in her face.

See, this is the thing about taking photographs all the time – it teaches you to look at things differently. Taking photos makes me feel somewhat like a pushy mother, for whom every conversation is a networking opportunity for my precocious daughter. Everything is a photo opportunity. Everything could be framed and cropped and snapped. It makes me very tedious to take anywhere, as I will stop 100 times a minute to take pictures, and having it taken away from me, especially in such beautiful circumstances, was so much more painful than I ever would have imagined.


  1. I had just such an experience at a festival last summer when I left my memory cards behind. So much so that I sent people out on long drives to find one, but none could be found. It was alarmingly painful to be without the ability to capture little tiny moments in time for all eternity. I'm willing to bet that like me, you'll never make that same mistake agaib:)
    Laura. M.

  2. Hi Laura... you're right, never again!!