The Art of Diplomacy in Photography


Cheryl and Barry

and the Art of Diplomacy in Photography

‘Suitable or proper in the circumstance…’

The adjective definition of ‘appropriate’. Hmm..  There are some things that are indeed appropriate to say and then there are others that could be classed as ‘inappropriate’ to verbalise.  For most of us in the Northern Hemisphere there is a filter in our brain that dictates, and typically adapts our internal, maybe inappropriate thoughts into suitable appropriate communication.  Perhaps it could be classed as diplomacy?

I pondered this as I awoke to the alarm.  I had realised early on in my relationship with Koala that her particular ‘filter’  isn’t the same as mine.  That perhaps the Antipodean heat changes brain chemistry and what is considered suitable in a particular situation is often bypassed for something entirely inappropriate.  Her internalised thoughts are often released with unbridled freedom.  However, I have adapted and embraced this peculiarity as endearing ‘directness’ that leaves me in no doubt about her intention or thought process.  It is refreshing and prevents ambiguity.  I like that.. It keeps me on track.

It is 4.30am


‘You’re suffering aren’t you?’  Koala asks me as I bury my pounding head in the duvet, thinking of something appropriate to say.  I’ve had the flu for 2 days and was hoping the morning would not arrive.  Koala had booked a couple shoot for sunrise at Dunnottar Castle.  ‘Then perhaps we could drive up to Rattray Head…. only if you’re feeling better?’  I had an inappropriate response to this but it was diffused as Koala gave me a Lemsip and a consolatory smile.

‘You look like shit.’  Thanks.. that helps.  ‘Are you sure you’re going to be able to drive?’  She asked sympathetically.  I sipped the Lemsip.   I think so I croaked.  ‘Oh great.. well you have 15 minutes. We need to get going.. the forecast is good for sunrise!’  Koala checked the MetOffice App… my escape route was gone.  ‘I do feel bad about this..’  she smiled sympathetically again.

I know she does.  I also know that this is what I find endearing about her.  Her passion and enthusiasm to be outside,  regardless of the elements or the ungodly hour, this is what she lives for and I can’t help but be drawn in… even with the flu.  I ponder again and drag myself out of bed, cursing my fortune.  I refrain from telling Koala she’s like a dog that needs walked,  perhaps that would be inappropriate?  I smile as Koala becomes animated as if at the sight of her lead or her owners waterproof jacket.  I do feel like shit though.  We set off in the dark to collect Cheryl and Barry.

They were just as excited as Koala!  They even had their own picnic.  Maybe I was just a miserable Yorkshireman after all or was it because I’d never had a dog to walk?  It was freezing when we got to Dunnottar.  The sun was starting to colour the sky from beneath the horizon of the North Sea.  Koala was increasingly animated trying to explain why a blue sky is a disaster!?  Trying to encourage us to move to ‘chase the light’.


I was thinking that perhaps a crisp clear day would be at least enjoyable for the clients and preferable to the alternative cloudy wet dullness!?  I learned that this wasn’t in fact the case. In fact blue sky is not the photographers friend!?!  Every day is a school day.  Dunnottar castle is truly an epic location, even more so as the golden light began to highlight its rugged beauty.  The cloudless sky accentuated it’s appeal.. well at least to me, but I’m no photographer!

Cheryl and Barry felt like they were on holiday!?

An interesting thought I considered as they were getting changed into formal dress and kilt wear.. in a  freezing carpark.. at sunrise?  Oh and it was Cheryl’s Birthday!?  Am I just old?  Or miserable?  Koala was back in her zone, directing the placement, the couple poses, her disarming reassurance to a shivering couple who were doing their best to avoid hyperthermia and deliver Koalas vision.  ‘I know that you’re cold and in a lot of pain but can you smile with sincerity…?  Barry.. smile like you mean it! Be like a mermaid!’  I nearly dropped the reflector!  Here we go, the appropriate use of direction, there’s a photographers guide book waiting to be written here somewhere!

I made notes and became increasingly aware of Koalas uncanny knack of translating her idea into image without any need for a diplomacy filter!  ‘Cheryl, can you act like your being chased by a bear? Barry… you’re the bear!’  Do I have to make noises..?  Poor Barry asks compliantly  ‘… if it helps!’ Koala dismisses.  This is better than Paracetamol!  I’m distracted by my book and forget the flu.

We change location, moving north along the east coast.  Cruden Bay is said to have been the site of a battle in which the Scots defeated the Dane invaders in 1012.  It is also a wonderful stretch of beach,  dunes and cliff that belies it’s Gaelic derivation.. Slaughter of the Danes!  New Slains Castlewas built around a 16th century tower house.. Another spectacular cliff top ruin for Koala to direct our helpless couple.  I worry that we will lose someone one day.. frozen to death in a whimsical pose!

‘Dance! Act like you’re in love!!’


Another classic.  I realise that it is probably only adrenaline that keeps us from a law suit.. I encourage Koala in her enthusiasm.  Then she threatens,  the dancing becomes a little rigid as the wind blows off the sea from the Arctic!  ‘No pose… No warm coat!!’  Koala demands.  Cheryl and Barry comply.  Fearful.  I consider our business insurance again.  Dance!!  Twirl your kilt!?  I hear myself shout.  Encouraging movement. Do as she says for gods sake!!  I whisper.  ‘Let’s go to the beach.  I’ve got this wild and crazy idea… you know that scene from Here to Eternity?’  They did.  They look dumbfounded.  Cheryl was unsure whether this was Barry’s birthday treat!?

I step in.  What about we look at a shot from the dunes darling?  Perhaps rolling around in the surf maybe a little too ‘wild and crazy’ for February?

Rattray Head

A stunning stretch on coast with an offshore lighthouse provided the last location.  This was typically Koala.  She was in her animated element and distracted by the artistic impact of the landscape.  She forgot the couple poised on the beach, frozen in a surreal ceilidh.. waiting for further direction.  Koala wandered off.. the draw of the fading golden light on the crashing waves was strong.. the seagulls aligned around the lighthouse.  We had lost her…

I reassured Cheryl and Barry.  It was over..  I maybe need to add a paragraph to the guidebook.  ‘The etiquette of appropriately going for your own shots and leaving the clients standing.’  Appropriate or not.. Koala is Koala and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Whimsically yours,


About the Author


Richard Jackson

I was born in Leeds and grew up in the Military. Which thankfully has put me in good stead to 'look after' the Koala. I carry the tripod, hold the reflector, drive the truck, make the sandwiches and ensure that the clients have everything they need. So basically I do everything apart from press the button... sorry.. shutter! Apparently I am a hidden literary gem so I get to write the blog and provide creative input when asked!