I’m trying to get your attention with this title but like most attention-getting stunts, a grain of substance exists. Photographers can get crazy when it comes to getting the right shot. When travelling in a motor vehicle with a photographer, this can mean steeling yourself for unexpected U-turns on both deserted and busy streets, sudden jolting stops and a seemingly endless amount of gazing around in all directions except the one you would expect the driver to be looking in. Due to scary experiences in the past, my photographer partner has made a solemn oath that he will never again try to get a shot while driving! To the more cautious people out there this might seem like a given but let me tell you about something I witnessed the other day while standing at a pull out on the winding road of the Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park. A guy on a very big motorcycle came around a tight corner with one hand on his bike handle and the other hand holding a very large camera that he was shooting continuously as he drove. I mean a big camera, folks – not a little hand-held job like mine. Photographers don’t consider danger in the same way the rest of us do.
If you travel with a photographer you will be regaled with endless talk of the wonders of the light during the golden hours – just after sunrise or before sunset. You can expect to be rousted out of a comfortable bed in the predawn light in order to arrive at some point where the sun is rising. You will see your travelling companion scrambling over barricades, beyond well-marked boundaries, and up dangerous looking slopes – all in the pursuit of the perfect shot. Expect endless delays while various antics take place. My partner demonstrates behaviour that could have a person who wasn’t carrying a camera locked up in a home for the hopelessly insane. Consider what I saw the other day, out of the corner of my eye – he was crouched low to the ground, running wildly across a yard with a large orange pylon under his arm. When asked later what the hell he was doing, he nonchalantly replied, “It was in way of the shot.”
Another important thing to keep in mind – it is always the photo that got away that haunts the travelling photographer. My partner is worse than a fisherman when it comes to endless lamentation about how the photo he missed would have been the best one he could have ever taken.
The other day my photographer partner jumped out of the car with a wild smile on his face and said, “I love the smell of snow on the mountains in the morning.” He sounded exactly like Robert Duval in Apocalypse Now and looked just about as crazy. I came on this holiday to California for a bit of heat. That morning I was standing outside in a wind that brought the temperature below zero so he could photograph snow-covered peaks. The mountains are breathtaking but it was still freezing out there.
The delays used to get on my nerves but I have come up with my own coping method. I now take advantage of this time to write hurried notes in my writer’s journal – blog ideas, little tidbits of this and that, impressions that I hope will spark my imagination at a later date. All I ask is to be parked in a spot that is safe and hopefully inspiring. I have feared for my life while waiting in a car pulled precariously over on a busy street, to say nothing of time spent with only a concrete abutment to stare at.
To be fair, I own up to the fact that I am no photographer. I love to take pictures but I have an eye for a different type of picture than my partner does. I like to take pictures of signs and odd things that I think will make my four-year-old granddaughter laugh. My observations of travelling with a photographer come from the place of the non-initiated, the non-passionate, the outsider. I’m sure all the photographers out there will say – what is she talking about? That guy is behaving just as I would in his situation. Everything she is describing is perfectly normal.
Since we crossed over into the US we had been searching for a camera store where the photographer might purchase a polarizing filter. In Bishop CA we got lucky. We walked into a quiet store on the main street and chatted with a soft-spoken man. He had the right filter for my partner’s camera. In the corner I saw a really nice tripod, very reasonably priced. I convinced my partner to buy it. His tripod is vintage 1970 – a heavy clunky thing held together by black tape. Days ago he accidentally forgot it at a rest stop and when we rushed back two hours later it was still standing in the same spot he had left it. No one in their right mind would steal that tripod, unless perhaps they were in need of a heavy murder weapon.
While in the store, I had a short and poignant conversation with the man behind the counter. He had been a professional photographer with his own studio but he told me it wasn’t a way to make a living anymore. “Everyone’s a professional now – ,” he said with a sad smile, “ – press automatic and shoot, auto adjust on the computer and there you go. No one needs a professional photographer anymore.” I looked up at him and said, “But you still need an eye.” He nodded thoughtfully and agreed, “Yes, you still need an eye.”
My next post will be turned over to my photographer partner and travelling companion. He will share some of his favorite shots from the trip so far.I told him to limit it to ten and he countered with, “Why not an even dozen – like the apostles?” What the apostles could have to do with the number of photos is beyond me. I do hope you will enjoy his work. I admit to often enjoying the product of his endeavours to a great degree more than the process – but not always. Would I have these wonderfully funny memories if I wasn’t along for the process, too? Nope.