How It’s Done


A little local knowledge on a dull day can get you the shot you want even when all is seemingly lost. Like this shot of Eilean Donan castle taken during a gap in the rain

I have been pondering the ways of the photographer. I have had plenty of time to do this as it has been truly dreadful weather recently. There has been too much rain, just too much.

A photographer walks a fine line between being a bit geeky and a lot geeky. It is important to use as many tricks and ruses as skills to maintain your balance in your chosen path. As is common knowledge being prepared is as important a skill as any other. There are more photographers, it seems, than there are things to photograph so it is essential to do all or as much of your preparation in private.


We can use Eilean Donan Castle or Elgol as examples. Both are stunning views in very different ways but attract myself and other photographers like flies to…like bees to a honey-pot. This means at the golden hour either side of sunset we are all there to get The Shot. So there is a line of tripods at the commonly accepted best place to get The Shot. I can never decide what this reminds me of. Sometimes I think of paparazzi waiting for some starlet or next big thing to appear, sometimes twitchers waiting for the lesser flanged corn throbber to make an appearance on this continent for the first time in 46 years, or if I am feeling a little more benevolent they remind me of the massed ranks of the press waiting for one of the Apollo rockets to launch. Whatever they are like they all have competition in common. They know they are going to get a better shot than those beside them.


So you now have a choice; you can join in and try and barge your way into the best position and compete with your peers, in a friendly way of course, or go exploring and get a different shot from an unexpected angle. I much prefer the unexpected angle as it has an element of exploration and the unknown to it and a longer dog walk too. But let us take the other path, the one more followed. Let us join the massed snappers in search of The Shot.

The technique we have developed is a form of guerrilla photography along with some sneaky moves. It is always advantageous to (if you have one or two handy) bring a dog with you and use them to scope out what is going on, what boats are parked picturesquely in the bay or if the shore is covered in nasty, smelly, thick line of seaweed which could ruin a shot and shoes too. So instead of looking like a photographer you are cunningly disguised as a dog walker. Nobody ever takes notice of somebody walking a dog (remember, bring a dog not a cat, everybody will notice a cat walker).

                                           I got very wet feet taking this picture

This means you only have to expose yourself as a photographer at the very last second, It also means, if your dogs are anything like ours’ they will have trashed your rivals concentration and/or equipment during the doggy blitzkrieg that takes place when the assistants come across anybody, especially somebody who isn’t keen on them. The frantic removing of camera bags when younger assistant and his enormous, indiscriminate and expressive bladder starts sniffing around tripods is a particular joy. The senior assistant misinterprets people bending to look through view finders as  someone bending to say hello to her and leaps up to save them the effort. Lucky most view finders have a rubberised rim.


Mrs L365 disguised herself as a normal person and only whipped out her tripod at the last minute

Doing most of your set-up preparation before you get out the car is also important. More than once I have boosted my ego by arriving just in time for the sunset and got out of my car dropped the legs of the tripod banged of a few images and picked up the tripod and left before anybody could even see what make of filters I was using. Got the shot too. Local knowledge is very important, faking local knowledge is just as important. Always look confident. No matter what happens you have to make out that you meant it.

You can feel self conscious about your choice of equipment, be it make of camera or filter effect, or be ashamed of your tripod. Or you can breezily take any old rubbish as long as it gets The Shot though that takes a special type of self belief I don’t have. I have to admit I have a camera strap that is much better than the one the camera came with; it is stronger and more comfortable, but it doesn’t have the instantly recognisable logo of our camera on it denoting that I have a pretty cool piece of kit. So it sits in a box in the loft waiting the time that our camera becomes naff and I will want to hide what I use.

I went to our local beach on a photographing come dog walking expedition in July and when I arrived at the parking area there was a guy standing by his tripod and camera with a very bored looking wife sitting sensibly in the car beside him. This was at the height of the midge season and the sun was due to set soon.  He was patiently waiting for the sun to go down. The car parking was about 30 feet above sea level and was also a common grazing area for the local crofts, there were quite a few cows and billions of midges.

We didn’t want to stand still for too long so the camera was set up and attached to the tripod in the car, the filter choice was made in-car too. The whole lot was slung over a shoulder and we made our way to the water’s edge in a Hi-Ho sort of way. I paused only to bid a cheery hello to my fellow photographer and apologise for the over enthusiastic greeting the assistants gave him. As I approached the shore the legs of the tripod were extended and as soon as they were planted I set up my shot and banged of a few exposures before the midges caught our scent and descended en-masse. The first instinctive flail of the hand around my head indicated it was time to go. Total time out of car? Probably 3 maybe 4 minutes. Got the shot though. One of our most popular this summer too. I wonder if it was just luck or was it local knowledge. A bit of both I bet.


  Ashaig beach. Our 4 minute photo. That’s about as long as you have before the midges descend. 


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