Like many of us amateur photographers I fit my hobby around family life. I’m luckier than some in that my family are all grownups although with ten grandchildren and the cost of professional childcare along with the failure of many employers to cater for working parents with school-age children that benefit quickly gets negated. I probably average only one solid four or five hour block of time to myself in an average week. If like today that coincides with awful weather with no redeeming features such as dramatic clouds or light then enthusiasm can wane a tiny bit.
But, I am lucky in that my better half understands and encourages my hobby so I can often sneak in an hour or two when I should be sorting my domestic chores. She is also fairly tolerant when we go out for the day and so long as I’m not toting a huge bagful of kit she’s happy for me to take a camera, or three, along. She’s also happy for me to wander with a camera whilst she is shopping so long as I’m back at the designated spot on time and not so far away that I cannot be summonsed to give an opinion on something.
A recent weekend away in Salford, staying at a Travelodge on the Quays, was a case in point. I took a shoulder bag as normal (I am required to carry any bits n pieces designated as necessary) and still managed to squeeze in three cameras, a mini tripod, Z-plate, a few filters and half a dozen rolls of 120 and 35mm film. The ever-present Horizon S3 Pro was joined by the new Ondu 6×6 pinhole and as a last-minute impulse the Olympus EE3 half-frame 35mm camera.
Now, the Quays, or more specifically the Media City UK complex, don’t hold particularly fond memories for me. Twice in three previous visits I had been harassed by security guards controlled by a remote, faceless supervisor with CCTV determined to be a total jobsworth. The first time I had a little sympathy for them, I had a large tripod and a pro-spec Nikon DSLR. They mistook me for a professional photographer and demanded my permit. Explaining I was not a professional and the images were just for my own amusement was futile so I asked where do I need to go to request a permit. Turned out it had to be done in writing well ahead of time! As there were very few folk about at the time I was fairly frustrated by this totally jobsworthian attitude. The fact that my companion on the day, a professional shooting images for her business, was not even spoken to just rubbed salt in the wounds.
So, despite not toting a large tripod or large “professional -looking” camera I was nevertheless wary. In fact, I was only approached by a lanyard-wearing official once but he turned away when he heard the clockwork whir of my Horizon!
Over the weekend I used all three cameras, all six rolls of film and also the “emergency” roll of Tri-X I keep in the pocket of the Horizon case. Three 35mm rolls through the Horizon, the Ondu swallowed the three rolls of 120 and I chewed through seventy five half-frames with the Olympus. All of which was accomplished whilst walking with the wife or whilst waiting whilst she explored the outlet shopping centre (twice).
One of my hobby horses is the advisability of knowing your cameras inside out such that you don’t need to think about the operational aspects; using the camera becomes instinctive and you are free to concentrate on composition. Such is the case with any camera I take out on an outing with other people, especially non-photographers. I save new or rarely used cameras for those occasions when I can concentrate totally on the photography. By following this maxim I was able to scan for possible images whilst walking knowing that I could take the camera out of the bag and make the exposure with barely a break in my stride. The pinhole is an exception here of course and I simply stored up possibilities and went back for these whilst the better half was shopping.
And I guess that’s my point. An understanding wife, a thorough understanding of the camera and film you are using and a can-do approach means that “serious” photography is possible even when you don’t have a “serious” amount of time to do it in. Hopefully the images accompanying this post don’t disprove my theory!