An unreliable memoir

What sort of photographer are you?

Twig Parachute

A year ago if you’d asked me what sort of photographer I was I’d have said “Not a very good one”. That’s still true but I’ve realized that’s not the answer that people want. So if you ask me now, I’ll say, “Wildlife Photographer”, with cosy capital letters so that people can put me in a comfortable box. Obviously, that’s not true either, but when you try to be honest and say “aspiring wildlife photographer” or “not a very good wildlife photographer”, you’ve missed the point of the question – which box can I put you in?

The trouble is, as soon as you say Wildlife Photographer people immediately think of a middle aged man sitting in a Land Rover in East Africa taking pictures of cheetahs through a drainpipe. Even I do it. One of the reasons I’m not a very good wildlife photographer is because I don’t take the wildlife calendar images of cheetahs that people expect. The latest David Attenborough narrated TV series from the BBC is magnificently photographed, but it doesn’t take more than 30 seconds of a pride of lions deciding if they can be bothered to get off their fat arses and go and bite a buffalo before I’m asleep. My wildlife photography involves muddy knees and sneaking up on animals smaller than a fingernail. Don’t bother me with herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains etc etc, give me a tiny miniature landscape like these Frosty Bonnets, only a centimetre high, representing the Acacia trees of the African veldt.

You should know however that my style of wildlife photography involves every bit as much jeopardy as the East African big game snappers. Apart from the aforementioned muddy knees, there’s the very real risk of dying of thirst when the flask runs dry, or someone else eating the last sandwich. To take this shot, I needed to cross a ditch to reach the fungi on the other side. Well, I say cross, but fall into is a more accurate description. Working in the field is all about minimizing unanticipated risks, and I’m afraid to say that my Risk Assessment for this assignment did not adequately cover the risk of my accomplice dying of laughter as I attempted to take this shot. That’s why it’s a bit fuzzy round the edges. At least, that’s the version for public consumption, rather than “not a very good wildlife photographer”.

Frosty Bonnet, Mycena adscendens. Sony DSC-HX20V f3.5 7.1mm 1/40 ISO 250

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