The week before last, I was shooting predominantly with my Nikkormat. Since it was the first time I’d used the camera, and only the second time ever that I’d shot Kodak Tri-X, I was doing everything carefully. I had a light meter out for almost every shot, and for high contrast scenes, even went to the trouble of averaging several readings from shadows and highlights. The net result? I won’t know until I get the film back in the next couple of weeks.
During the course of shooting the film, I was reminded about something, which I feel like getting off my chest.
Object of Intrigue
“It must be the popularity of cellphone cameras,” I keep telling myself.
At least, that’s the only way I can rationalise why people seem fascinated by someone taking a photo. That rationalisation is based on the fact that: it happens more often with film cameras; it happens more often when a light meter is concerned; and it always seems to happen when a tripod is deployed.
Most of the time, people seeing me faff about with gear are friendly. More often than not, they realise what I’m doing, and just want to have a nice chat.
Late last year, while working with a tripod at the beach early on a Sunday morning, an elderly couple happened by me. They stopped and chatted, then carried on and wished me luck with the photos. It’s nice when this sort of thing happens.
Towards the end of the film in the Nikkormat, I decided to run the Topcon Press Camera alongside it. Whilst perched on a steep track at Blackhead, a group of people arrived with their dog. I offered to let them past, but as it turns out, they just wanted to admire the view from afar. They left me to my devices, and were kind enough to keep the dog away without being prompted. Truthfully, it’s the nicest time I’ve had shooting at Blackheaad, and normally, I’ve got the place to myself.
Sadly, it isn’t always that pleasant. Largely for that reason, I’ve opted out of taking many pictures (if any) when walking to and from uni.
Spring last year was the clincher. I was taking a picture of First Church on my way home, and noticed somebody looking at me halfway down the block. It turns out he’d been pointing me out to a man on a bench, who subsequently bailed me up when I’d got around the corner. He was irritated on two counts: I hadn’t stopped the moment he started calling out (I was wearing earphones), and I had supposedly been taking his picture. As I explained to him, it’s a bit hard to take a picture of someone on the ground when you have a tele lens aimed at the top of a church spire. All the same, I wiped the pictures, so that he was left in no doubt that he wasn’t anywhere on my SD card.
I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago, when I got a weird look from a couple of policemen for using a light meter. To the best of my knowledge, this is not illegal in New Zealand. However, a silver box with a green screen must in some way look criminal outside a church at 7 PM. The weird look faded once the camera came out of the bag. It then partially returned when I was seen to be advancing film. Again, the cellphone camera thing at work…
Encountering people is entirely expected. Often times, it’s very pleasant, and better still, people accept that photography is something you find immensely enjoyable. Sometimes, unfortunately, encounters are less positive. I’ve elected to actively avoid circumstances where negative encounters are likely to develop, because frankly, I’ve got better things to focus on.