The History of the Lockdown Photographer

Early on, during the lockdown, I noticed my camera bag was gathering dust in my office. I checked the photos that hadn’t been been cleared from the SD card and realised they were more than six months old. My ready-to-go backpack was ready to go, but I wasn’t. 

Then I remembered that while loafing around in the garden I had been watching a pair of Red Kite regularly circling above, two pairs of turtle doves, blue tits, great tits, not forgetting four great big fat wood pigeons and a small flock of last years clutch of starlings that have just got their new adult plumage but were too young to join their adults when they left for pastures new in Africa. Another hobby to help pass the time although I don’t expect to mature into a twitcher once we are let out to play.

Last week I saw the offer of a photography course “How to take perfect Photographs with your Mobile Phone”. A special discounted price of about £40 which was just one tenth of full price during Lockdown.  I wasn’t tempted but I did read the blurb. Apparently the biggest attraction of your mobile phone is that it’s always with you. That at least is absolutely true!

Sometime in the late 1990s when I was a busy travel writer, I published a book called “Travels with my Camera”.  It wasn’t a masterpiece and as is the way of publishing, the times and methods change, and the book is no longer in print.  During all of my travelling I found that my SLR 35mm camera was just too cumbersome to carry all day plus the fact that I had been mugged a couple of times so I tended to use a smaller bridge camera.

If the mobile phone course had been available then I would certainly have splurged forty quid on the learning course. I would just as certainly have never left home without my phone except that at that time phones were the size of a house brick. Plus networks were scrappy in the U.K. and abroad virtually none existent.

Some six years or so back and semi-retired, I decided to treat myself to one of the latest digital single lens reflex camera having sold my two much revered bridge style cameras to help fund the purchase.  That was what I told my long suffering wife anyway, more to the point once I got my hands on my DSLR I knew that I would never use the my old ones.

I suppose I spent a month holding, fondling and falling in love with my new acquisition.  Buying a couple of very expensive lenses and taking lots of photos but always using it on fully automatic.  The results were brilliant, if I say so myself.  I then went off on an assignment to Snowdonia taking the DSLR on a trial run and was totally infatuated.

I first got into photography in the 1960s when I had a dark room and developed my own results.  I had a sailing colleague who owned a chemist/camera shop that also dealt with second-hand cameras.  I changed cameras with his help, moving up from a simple Ilford Sportsman 35mm through many different makes and formats via a Rolleicord, a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex and even a Hasselblad 500C.  Most of them would be worth a small fortune today.

In those days you will have gathered I had become quite a camera buff and knew of such things as depth of field, focal lengths and f stops.  I’m not sure if it is laziness, old age or just that I had become so used to using point and shoot cameras that such things have become a foreign language to me.

Amazon sent me an email offering a special deal on a Masterclass for the DSLR camera and I resisted the temptation, because I was an expert.  Not quite long enough to delete the email, and Amazon were very persuasive and I took up the offer of a full day Masterclass.  I’m such an easy target for anything that takes my interest.  I have no idea how Amazon knew that I could be in the market for such an offer, but it is slightly frightening, could my purchase of an SD card reader have put my name on a target list?

Come the day, cometh the man as they say, and I found myself in the village of Madingly, just outside Cambridge attending the promised Masterclass.  There were about a dozen very mixed bunch of students of various ages and sizes.  One young lady had flown in that morning from Dublin just to take part and was flying home the same evening. Probably the only thing that we had in common apart from a keenness to learn was the fact that each was clasping a digital single lens reflex camera.

James (that’s a nice name and a good start), our tutor had been a professional photographer for many years with an impressive portfolio and a CV that included working with the famous Peruvian photographer Mario Testino OBE who was a firm favourite of our Royal Family as well as Vogue and Vanity Fair.  Needless to say, this wimp was intimidated before we started.

Repeat after me; I must never switch my camera on to automatic, ever again!  I now know all there is to know about Depth of Field, Focal Length, f Stops, Shutter Speeds and how to and when to use them.  Seriously, a really good Masterclass that we spent both in the classroom and outside, putting our newfound knowledge into practice.  I learned everything that I went for and a lot more.

I won’t promise never to switch my camera on to fully auto but I will use the other priorities whenever I can improve my photos.  I promised my wife that three lenses are sufficient for my needs (at the moment) but I haven’t told her that when I got home from school I went online to Adobe and ordered a computer programme called Photoshop Lightroom because well . . . . . . . . I needed it.  


About Jake

Long retired travel writer, author and freelance journalist. Educated at Wolverton Grammar and Greenwich Naval College. Happily married since 1958, with a married son and daughter, a married granddaughter and an adult grandson. Hobbies rock-climbing, dinghy racing and ocean racing. Still regularly working out in the gym.
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