Its not all Rock’n Roll
But I like it
Koala is frustrated
It is another blue sky day… very blue. Almost tropical. Koala is sun burnt from yesterday. That won’t help her mood. Not a day for ‘Rock n Roll Photography’. I’m not really sure what that is, but I once assumed that life as a photographer would be pretty rock n roll. Travel to exotic places, epic landscape locations, wealthy influential clients. A jet set lifestyle that translated to images on the cover of Vogue, Conde Nast….or Sports Illustrated. I pondered this as I watched a sheep cling to the edge of the cliff, typically searching for the most inaccessible patch of grass. The sea below did look inviting but I was guessing that the sheep was no experienced cliff diver. Then I realised that he was just trying to avoid the unwanted attention of an approaching Koala with her camera. She really was getting desperate now.. if a sheep silhouette was her only option?!
The sun shone on the lighthouse behind me. The waves crashed on the rocks below. It wasn’t an ’epic’ shot by any means, but Koala, distracted from the retreating sheep, saw it too. It was our moment to appreciate the scene. Nature that was around us. She smiled at me from across the headland. I realised that it was these moments, these little things that make us do this. I love that. I was getting sentimental….. the sheep did look a little too close to the precipice!
Koala made her way, smiling toward me… just as her phone gave a familiar ‘ping’ and an email stole the moment.
‘… we really love your work – It is EPIC! Would you like to collaborate with us on your next project? We can share images and perhaps you can promote our new range of watch straps? Look forward to hearing from you!’
Uh oh! I winced. 3 words not to use in an email to a Koala… Epic, Promote and Collaborate – or worse still… Collab! She went from a slow simmer to a substantial boil really quite quickly… and now was a little more than a frustrated Koala. There will be no #goodart today.
‘WTF!! A feckin watch company??! WTF!?’ She emphasised the last WTF.
I tried to deflect her incandescence. ‘Erm… maybe we will see some Minke Whales today darling?’ I smiled hesitantly. Her look of disgust withered me. Perhaps not. Koala was annoyed. I retreated and suggested we go back to the Airbnb for a beer. ‘… a feckin watch company !!’
I chose silence as we walked back and considered again the reasoning behind our lifestyle, this choice of career, this Rock n Roll lark? I once aspired to be a photojournalist as a kid, after I had read a book by Tim Page. He was a war correspondent and his life of danger, outdoor adventure and travel to war torn countries, to capture the image and write, excited me! All that exotic stuff that maybe avoided the realities of what he actually experienced. I chuckled to myself that in some disjointed, ironic way I had achieved my life aspirations… and now I was with Koala. I’ve never managed exotic but I was now on a remote Hebridean island in the North Atlantic… at sunset. It would be an idyllic, even tropical holiday, but the ‘feckin’ Watch Company had made me reflect.
I’m not normally known for internal introspection, as I don’t really know what that means, but it came up on predictive text once so I saved it for use and today I introspected that being a photographer means that you are never truly on holiday …and it certainly isn’t rock n roll! Koala was still frustrated and maybe now I knew why. I needed a strategy to counter the irritated Koala. The sun would usually placate her mood, encourage and acclimatise her. The Scottish sun is usually a rare commodity, so only a brief annual spell would be enough to load her Vitamin D, lift her and assist the return to balance… the normal way of things that I was accustomed. However, this unusually tropical spell of weather has overloaded her. She has burnt legs and a uncharacteristically ‘Pommie’ looking face, but I refrained from making any public reference to this. The watch strap, the blue sky day and physical fallout from the previous days adventure ’not taking a decent photograph’ were now all adding to the list of irritations and preventing any chance of success today. I gave her a consolatory smile.
Koala works hard for her money
There is a song there. I smiled to myself…and you’d better treat her right! Perhaps I should reply to the watch company? From the innocent safety of a media office, they had inadvertently irritated a sunburnt marsupial and they needed to be made aware of their misdemeanour! The email had also highlighted to me just how unappreciated and maybe misunderstood a profession photography can be. Not unappreciated in a ‘School Crossing Lady’ kind of way but an Instagram misperception of what it actually entails. It is not a glamorous hobby, filled with lots of free time to provide ‘collabs’ for sock companies wanting free promotional images or to give suggestions and advice to tourists on where they can visit on a 3 day vacation to Scotland.. without transport…in Inverness! No.. I have come to realise that Photography is fraught with unseen pressures that are not truly apparent to the humble civilian or owner of a drone. For a start, there is no such thing as ‘free time’ or a ‘normal’ vacation! Despite the complaints of sun burnt Koala calves, I was being reminded that, I wasn’t on holiday!
Unseen in this rock n roll world are the hours of free time (?) that accompany a single image. A single photograph, that may prompt a casual 5 second viewing or illicit a ‘EPIC shot!’ comment by a follower on Instagram, belies the reality of the pre shoot planning, the early starts and gruelling days of travel, often without food, the physical effort to find a location in all the weathers that a Scottish day can, and usually will, achieve. I could feel myself beginning to internalise a rant. Then there was the hours of silence in front of the laptop to sift, edit and delete the images that have been captured. The breathe holding that this usually involves.. sat hoping that there will be something that Koala is happy with! I was unaware of this until now. I was unaware that we never really ‘switch off’. There will always be a potential location to scout, a tree in the field by the motorway or a unicorn over the hill on the way to Tesco!? This always adds pressure and I could feel the tension in my own sunburnt neck.
Yes by God, She is right! Feckin Watch Company!
My rant was now external and Koala sensed it… as I kicked a clod of sheep shit off my flip flop. I didn’t need strategies to cope with Koala.. I had this all wrong. I.. am a ‘we’ and I am in this whimsical world with her! I felt an unusual sense of pride and camaraderie. I gave Koala a hug.. She looked at me quizzically – the hug wasn’t followed by an apology or even a request! Then silently she realised. There was a book in this, a guide book.. or a survival guide? Whatever. I was on a roll. A Rough Guide to being a Landscape Photographer, that every Career Guidance teacher should read. To offer to the innocents that approach them with a grand aspiration, before they get all creative and starry eyed. A real job description that isn’t obvious, that highlights the many and varied facets of a character required. These now began to reveal themselves to me.
The prospective applicant needs to be a Location Scout, know their area.. be a Mountain Guide… Scotland is a feckin big studio! The weather is notoriously unpredictable.. so being a Meteorologist is advantageous too. They will need to be a Tour Guide.. an Off-road Driver that Rabbies will only be able to aspire to! You will be questioned, you’ll need the knowledge – Historian, Naturalist, Conservationist, Restaurant…. or Toilet Critic. The client will have great expectations and there will be pressure to deliver ‘the shot’ that will be forever above a fireplace or even presented to in-laws. For this you need to be a Dreamweaver, a Story Teller and sometimes a Magician! You may need to adapt an…. ‘unusual’ canvas. Be a Costume Advisor, a Prop Designer, a Child Minder?! You will discover that all clients may not be ‘fully engaged’ with the process.. usually in the case of couples! Here there will be the requirement to provide Emotional Support, be a Motivational Speaker, a Diplomat or in some cases a…. Dominatrix !?
The role really does demand a committed individual…!
But this guide could actually save a life. A son or daughter might indeed be more suited to work in a call centre or becoming a School Crossing attendant after all and be spared a life of abject poverty and disillusionment. Koala had already accept that we are not going to live the life of David Bailey.. but the kids should be alerted! And if I had time, it could be a crusade!? So no.. it is not rock n roll, but on the walk back, I realised that we wouldn’t change it. Like some epiphany that just needed a photoshopped light beam on the path of righteousness before us, it all became clear. Even though the thrill of the final image drives Koala, an image to adorn the walls of a client or even to to fill the Instagram feed. It is not what draws ‘us’ to this lifestyle.
Nope.. it is the experience that we share to achieve the image in the first place – this is greater than what we ultimately produce.
Koala and I are in our element, in the outdoor environment that we love, appreciating and documenting nature as we see it with a camera. We maybe won’t be living the jet set lifestyle anytime soon, but equally we won’t compromise our love of what we do, to produce a fake or copied image, merely for financial gain or to boost a social media following. Was I becoming evangelical??
Koalas eyes widened. And another thing! We smiled in mutual appreciation. Yes it is more important than that… and hopefully with every dram of malt whisky that we share to warm our clients, they’ll realise that it is more than a preventative measure to ward off hyperthermia, that they’ll also understand the reality and the passion that Koala has for her images… and perhaps appreciate the hours of frustrated rant that I need to diffuse to get that image in the first place!
The sheep followed us away from the peril of the cliff edge and Koala smiled. Crisis averted. We smiled and got back in the truck. I could’ve really done with a new watch….
Not sponsored… just love it.
About the Author
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!