Say Cheese!

Hi Kids,

I wasn’t sure what to chat to you about today, but have settled on one of my main hobbies – photography.

You’ll know by now that I love photography, that I’m happiest when I have a camera in my hand. You’ll know this because you’ll probably have grown up thinking your dad has one brown eye and one big black eye with writing round the edges that says “…Canon…” and that winks at you occasionally (often accompanied by a bright flash of light). You’ll probably be bored stiff of ‘smiling for the camera’ by the time you turn 2.

I’ve always liked photography. When I was a kid, I got given grandad’s old Voigtlander camera. This was a phenomenal bit of kit, but way outdated even when I got it (although the perfect tool to teach me the fundamentals about photography – no fancy auto mode here!).

My first camera

My first camera

It wasn’t an SLR (single lens reflex) – in other words, there was no viewfinder that looked through the lens…there was a viewfinder, but it was just a square bit of glass to help with framing your shot…you had to estimate how far away the subject matter was and then dial the focus in on the lens (you couldn’t just look through the viewfinder and fiddle till everything was in focus) – this was made even harder by the fact that the distance was indicated in Feet and I grew up strictly metric. Then there was no built in light meter…no, there was a separate light meter that you had to point at the subject and then turn dials to get the best combination of shutter speed and aperture (based on the speed of the film you were using – yes FILM, no digital sensors here either). Once you’d set up your shutter speed and aperture, you were ready to shoot…if whatever you were shooting was still there!!! Not the kind of camera for photographing wildlife or sports – unless it was old man’s marbles (bowls) and even those old codgers can move too swiftly if you’re not on top of things!

The flash was this huge contraption that you attached to the top of the camera, opened the cover and opened out these reflective panels like a satellite dish or other such science fiction item. You then inserted the bulb – they were single use glass with a tangle of wire filament inside and were very fragile…and it was awesome!!!

I washed cars and mowed lawns and picked up dog poo so that I could have money for film. Then I’d wash more cars, mow the lawn again and pick up yet more dog poo so I could afford to have the film processed.

I fell in love with the process, the technicalities (because I’m a big nerd at heart), the creativity and the power you had when you were behind the lens. The control you have over what you capture and how you capture it, allowing you to present your version of the truth. Because that’s what photography does, it allows you to put your slant on reality.

My real passion photography wise is wildlife photography. The reason for this is that it actually combines two passions – wildlife & photography. I love nature in all it’s forms, big and small – I’ve swum with whalesharks (17 times!) and I’ve sat watching ants trying to escape from the antlion traps. They are all marvelous and fascinating. And the joy of combining this appreciation with the challenge of photographing them: of capturing their essence, their ‘themness’, that special moment, that original perspective or that unusual behaviour on film (in my mind the phrase still applies even when using digital) and the additional technical challenge of getting a ‘good’ shot…it’s superb…it’s the thrill of hunting without the bloodshed.

But, unfortunately, there’s not a lot of wildlife in Cape Town. Wildlife photography is something I get to do occasionally, while on holiday. This means photographing other subjects the majority of the time.

The photo at the top of this blog is a bad crop of a more recent image, photographed on the N2 just outside of Cape Town. I nearly caused an accident the first time I saw it…the shacks lining the little hill beside the motorway, power lines running higgledy piggledy, the poverty and squalor…and amongst it all, someone has painted this one word on the side of their home…FAITH. The next shack along has the white dove taking off painted on its side.

To me, this photo is an example of the power of photography. Like all art, it is up to the viewer, the consumer to get out of it what they will.

Most people associate Faith with religion. The majority of them will look at this image and marvel at the power of religion and how it can give you shelter in the storm, keep the poor and destitute from losing hope, how it can enable people to cope in any situation.

When I see this image, I don’t think of religion. I think of people. Humans. Homo Sapiens. I don’t think of the power of the almighty, I think of the power that each individual person has – their spirit. How they can cope, they can survive, they can strive to make things better…not necessarily because of their belief in a benevolent god, but because they want to.

Arrgh this is getting all deep and profound (well, maybe not that profound!), which is not what I intended…

I’ll tell you my thoughts on religion in another post…one that’s bound to be contentious, because all discussions about religion are.

So basically, I love photography, I love doing it, I love talking about it, spending time with other ‘togs’ who love it as much as I do, I love all the gear/equipment…and I love the fact that it gets me off my backside – it encourages me to get out and about, to explore, to get up before sunrise, to stay up late, but above all else, it teaches you to see…not just look..to actually see. Once you’re in ‘the zone’, you study everything in sight, not just the subject matter, but everything around it, the light, the shadows, the textures and shapes, the patterns, the movement, the reflections……and that’s when you really start to appreciate what’s actually around you, to really see what’s there and how it interacts with everything else around it.

Sometimes I think I should apply that principle to other things. One example is to sit back and take a good hard look at my life and consciously study all the facets of it, what’s there, what’s missing, what’s good, what’s bad, what’s essential, what’s necessary, what’s a nice to have, what do I want, what do I need, etc, etc, etc…

Maybe that’s what’s called a mid-life crisis these days…but there are a few things I know without having to go through this process – your mom is my world and we want you guys. So with that single-mindedness that comes with true focus, we will do whatever it takes to get you.

…and you’re gonna have to just live with the fact that you will have a camera pointed in your direction more often than the A-lists biggest celebrities…I’ll be your one man papparazzi….Say Cheese!!

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~ by HopelesslyTTC on 15/09/2009.

2 Responses to “Say Cheese!”

  1. I’m so happy we stumbled acccross your blog. It decreases the isolation factor immensely to read about people facing the same challenges in life. We have been hoping and praying for 10 years for a miracle to happen. DH also has Azoospermia, but he has never received treatment for it.

    Good luck with your journey, feel free to contact us if you need encouragement of any kind 🙂 BTW, we share your enthusiasm for both wildlife and photography.

    • Hi ttc4ever,
      glad my little blog is helping you guys to feel ‘not so alone’ if I can put it like that. There really don’t seem to be many guys out there with azoospermia who are willing to talk about it. 10 years ttc – ouch!! I’m assuming you guys now have some sort of plan of action that you’re working on?! I think after 10 years you surely deserve to catch a break, fingers crossed for you!
      Glad to hear there are more avid wildlife photographers out there – it’s such a privilege getting to spend time with wild animals and always leaves me feeling peaceful yet excited…love it.
      Regards to your hubby and if either of you ever want to chat, feel free to drop me a line.
      Thanks for commenting and keep in touch
      HopelesslyTTC

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