I can't remember if I posted elsewhere about the compartmentalisation of my birding and my photography? I know I meant to, but maybe I never got round it, like I never got round to finishing an article for Birdguides last autumn on the same subject. Basically, the guy who helped me choose my first camera and lens back in the early 90s was very much a photographer first and foremost, and though I dabbled with bird photography and a 500mm lens initially, for the past twenty-odd years, I've essentially concentrated more on landscapes, abstracts and insects with a little pocket-sized compact. I even ran a successful fortnight-long exhibition at the Cork Vision Centre entitled Around the World in Eighty Images in the early 2000s, and went on to become a semi-successful amateur photographer selling 'arty' photos for a couple of years.
I've always had a background photo-journalism sort of bent to my photography, having studied it formally in Cork for a couple of months, but this recent trip to the Gambia was the first time this particular aspect to my hobby was thrust very much centre stage, to the point where birdwatching became secondary. (This is my excuse as to why I didn't end up seeing as many species as you did!
) . But boy, was it emotionally taxing! From the very start, the extraordinarily coloured clothing of the residents caught my eye, especially the women and children, occasionally the men. The light, as you'll know, John, was superb morning and evening, and to a large extent also, in the shade, all day long. The dry, dusty and sandy backgrounds also enhanced the scope for potential award-winning photos. But the drawback, of course, is that unlike buildings, sunsets and butterflies, you can't just stick your camera up and expect everyone to be okay about taking their photograph(s).
Okay, you can ask for permission from time to time, but by then, le moment juste
, is often lost. Besides, in a land of such friendly people, I got enough interest from folk as it was, without wanting to draw further attention to myself and pictures of myself with arms around smiling folk were not always necessarily what I was looking for as a 'photojournalist'. I'm probably like you, John? I can be very bold and very shy sometimes, in almost equal measures. So it was very, very difficult at times; seeing half a dozen 'must have' pictures before breakfast, and yet, for various reasons, not managing to stop and take a single one. I almost couldn't bare walking through the local town between the hours of four and six pm, since in that late afternoon light, every doorway, every shop, every backyard had 'in the moment' pictures, I just couldn't bring myself to take. In the end, I was almost glad a fortnight before I came home, someone ran off with my bag and camera, and saved me the mental anguish of seeing and not being able to take so many wonderful pictures.
Luckily, the lads I was living and working with for three months, were more than happy for me to photo them in a number of different times and circumstances, and so eventually I've come back with a hundred or so people pics I'm really, really pleased with. Like you, John, my glass is nearly always somewhere between half-full to full-full, and in time, I hope to forget about the ones that got away, and just keeping coming back to the ones I was lucky enough to have achieved in the time that was available. Here's just a few of the ones I was particularly pleased with and next time I stop by, I promise I'll just stick to talking birds! (I took some notes first time I read the report of things I wanted to add to the thread)