Editor's Page 00-09-1987
Illustrated by a picture of mouse exploring a kitchen cheese-grater, this editorial appeared in an issue largely devoted to techniques involved in photographing wildlife and nature subjects.
Editor's Page by Christopher Long
One bizarre aspect of human nature which most of us share is a seemingly boundless capacity for self-deception. Hard bitten City moguls dream of the day when they stand, cast in bronze, above a plinth which describes their many kindnesses to the deserving poor. Timid accountants lie in the bath and plan daring, single-handed voyages to remote South Sea islands. And while schoolboys know precisely how they would have played in the Cup Final or saved England from defeat by Pakistan, there is, I hasten to admit, an editor who fondly believes he can take photographs.
London's streets were mercifully deserted as I surreptitiously loaded cameras and a tripod into my car and sneaked out of town at dawn the other day. It was still early when I arrived at the ancient Saxon church at Nether Wallop in Hampshire where I intended to exercise my prowess behind the lens. Spending hundreds of hours selecting transparencies to fill the pages of this magazine and knowing a good picture from a bad one at thirty paces, it was with unbridled confidence that I lay full-length among the dew-laden grasses and trained my camera on an ant.
Ants are, I've since concluded, unsuitable candidates for photography. Basically uncooperative by nature, they're hyperactive, never stay in shot, have no understanding of the principles of depth-of-field and have a nasty, vindictive propensity for swarming all over the camera, up one's arms, inside one's shirt and down into one's trousers.
Butterflies are no better. Clearly they suffer from the Western scourge: spoilt for choice. "Been here done that give me more what next?"
Butterflies flit, flutter and flit again.
Hardened photographers are all of the same opinion. We would advise you not to stand up stiff and damp from wet grass and then tread firmly on the bag containing the film stock and lenses. There's always the danger that they will become embedded in the egg-mayonnaise sandwiches. Similarly one learns early on not to encourage the attention of small children. After passing the time with two eight year-olds who had just finished their breakfast (full details of menu supplied) one couldn't help feeling, even in these liberal days, that it was way past their bed time.
"What are you doing?" asked one of the curly-haired angels. I explained that I was scraping mayonnaise off my camera. As one should encourage young, questioning minds when they ask 'why', I revealed that I was arguably the most brilliant cameraman she would ever meet and was therefore engaged in photographing animals. By coincidence it emerged that her daddy was the best. Furthermore, her friend had a terrapin.
I suggested that it would be very helpful if they would go and see if there were any newts in a river half a mile away which I might then photograph. Sensibly they remembered they were not allowed near rivers. Many parents are far too protective these days.
I was setting up my camera for a shot of the recently restored church when the second angel said she hadn't got a terrapin but she had got some fish, some cats and two dogs. They all had names, ages and personal habits which I failed to guess correctly.
What's more, I found I had failed to wind on my film between exposures on my vintage Yashika-A.
By now it was about 10.30 am and even the most experienced photographers need a break. As the angels were not planning on a pre-lunch drink I left them (and all the enchanting insect life) with a cheery wave, heading for a reasonable wait outside the local pub.
Were I not so busy I would, as you can imagine, have written the article [an expert's guide to wild-life photography] by Bob Gibbons on page 28 myself. Instead, however, I'll leave you with the above mouse a mouse suffering from the boundless self-deception that it will grate enough cheese to make a decent omelette.
© (1987) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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