Plate-spinning is a clever thing. When done well it looks easy. But it’s not just a question of calculating speed and angles, it’s the ability to focus intently on several events running simultaneously. I plate spin every day and every day there is more ceramic set in motion and consequently more potential for a major calamity.
It’s been a hugely busy period with the (almost) completion of the Caledonia book, researching and designing new photo-tours, commissioning a major web site update and coordinating the not insignificant 2020VISION project. Oh, and trying to make the most of the fantastic weather with my camera!
So what’s my point? Well the other day I was checking some of our photo-tour brochures and I came across our Career Counselling service ( I say ‘our’; it was designed and is delivered by Niall Benvie) and was wondering what sort of advice we should offer to the aspiring photographer. Well certainly dedication; without doubt resolve, and perhaps the ability to accept rejection…repeatedly. But perhaps more than anything – and this doesn’t just apply to nature photography – we need to learn to plate spin; to keep lots of different facets of our lives on the boil. You need to be good at different things – and all at the same time. I admire great plate spinners and have to admit to a bit of the green-eyed monster as I don’t do it nearly as well as many. I have long concluded however, that successful (and I’m never quite sure how that is defined) nature photography has got less and less to do with your ability behind the camera. So don’t be tempted to put all your eggs in that particular basket…or on that plate. Have to be off now – a bit of a mess to sweep up off the kitchen floor.
Oh god it’s going to be misty again. Here we go. Know what you want…know what you want…Ok, Ok, I’ve perhaps over-played this a wee bit, I’ll move on. But I can’t because it was misty again this morning – not in the place where I wanted it, but elsewhere. I say mist, it wasn’t really mist, more of a fog and there’s a thin line between the two. Mist dictates a high viewpoint overlooking a big landscape, fog beckons you towards a more intimate perspective. So what to do? Where to go? Too much mist basically means fog. And too much fog means no pictures.
For crying out loud Cairns, stop rattling on. An hour in, the sun is up and OK it’s not perfect(!!!) but Loch Garten is flat-calm, the rasping song of the goldeneye reverberates through the forest and the distant bubbling of black grouse makes it, well, bloody perfect actually. What am I getting so wound up about? Really?
It was a long, hot day with too much driving and too many meeting deadlines. At the end of it, I was not just tired, but weary. And I still had to muster some mental energy to take some pictures. Arriving on the coast, the prospects looked OK – not brilliant but OK. I half-heartedly checked out a few viewpoints but nothing really set me alight if I’m honest. But I was on site and a job needed doing.
As the sounds and smells of the sea permeated my disenchanted mood, I started to lighten up. After 20 minutes of standing alone on a windswept headland, I felt more alive than I had done all day. And as the sun dipped towards the horizon, painting the mudflats in delicate pastel shades, the troubles of the day were long forgotten. Throw in a 10-stop ND filter to soften the image and I was verging on euphoria.
Creativity in the outdoors: the most effective tonic for life. Without charge.