Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Running Scared


When I was in my early teens a combination of events ended in my losing confidence. I went from being a happy, galloping being, running free, to a captured one that slowed to a canter, a tired trot, then stumbled to a halt and fell. They break in horses, don’t they? I was broken all right.

I got up, of course, but kept on falling for many years. It was a very frightening, lonely time that involved hospitalisation, shrinks, anti-depressants, truth drugs – years that I prefer not to dwell on. I hit rock bottom more times than I care to remember, but finally, one day, in part due to a lovely fellow called Paul, I started coming up again. Yet it was a fragile ascent, for at my core was this terrified girl who was lost. Stumbling. Falling.

Fast forward 40 years and life – and several men in particular – have helped turn me into a stronger, wiser woman. Just as overly sensitive but I understand myself better, and having lived with Pip for 14 years, I have some knowledge of complex men. I trust myself and the fates that although tragic things happen, there are joyous things in life. Joyous people.

Just before he died Pip got a fabulous camera for his 70th birthday and the idea was that we’d share it – I would use it to take pictures for my walks for Cornwall Today. And while it has an idiot’s guide on it, I wanted to understand how the camera works so I could take good pictures. So I enrolled on a photography course.

A photographer friend had told me I had a good eye, and would soon pick it up and get my pictures published. So I went along that first day full of excitement and anticipation.

I left the first class nearly in tears. In the space of three hours, I entered a time capsule. I sped backwards, faster than the speed of light, and once more was that crying, lost little girl. “I don’t understand,” I kept saying. Not having a logical brain, I really struggle with the technical side of photography. But I couldn’t understand when the tutor explained.

This is the third course – the first was cancelled, the second was slightly better and I am keen to learn, and there are no other courses at the moment. This time I decided to go armed into battle. I tell myself that I’m not stupid. I expect to be made to feel an idiot and have to deal with it. And keep asking him to explain.

I have learnt a little. But the basic mechanics of photography elude me, like a fragile dream on waking. The other day the tutor said (in exasperation, I fear), “It’s just a matter of fractions,” and my brain had a seizure. I’ve never understood maths so numbers make my head spin. In fact, at the moment, photography makes my head spin.

A good friend has lent me some amazing books on photography. “Look at them and try not to get too bogged down in the technical side of things,” he suggested. “Go out with other photographers if you can.” Good advice – and one which I am following, though my photographer friends are very busy so it’s not a regular thing.

My pictures are published every month alongside my walks, but they aren’t as good as I’d like them to be, and I would like to understand more.

I very nearly didn’t go yesterday. I’ve been feeling exhausted, not able to sleep. But when I finally dragged myself out of bed, the sun was shining. We went to Swanpool and had an hour taking pictures focusing on composition. We had one-to-one tuition which was a great help and a few things started to come clear. I was quite pleased with the pictures I’d taken.

What I need, I think, is more one-to-one help. My dear friend Michael is going to give me a technical lesson on Friday (this could be the end of a lovely friendship) and I’m going to ask my photographer friends if they can be patient and go out with me and take pictures so I can learn on the hoof.

The amount I need to learn lies before me, like scattered pieces of a vast and complex jigsaw puzzle. So far I’ve fitted together three bits – of sky, of sea and of sand. Only another 9,672 pieces to go….. In the meantime I try and hold fast. I can do it, I keep telling myself. I can. I will. I hope.

To end on a cheering note – This afternoon I will be talking to Philip Marsden (author of The Levelling Sea) for my new walks book about Cornish writers. We will be discussing St Mawes, one of my favourite places. And his.

22 comments:

Jenny Beattie said...

I'm so sorry that you've felt catapulted back to the vulnerable girl from years ago. It's amazing how easy it is for that to happen to us. When I fail to 'get' something that someone says is simple, I try to remember that our brains vary. I'm sure I do things that I think are easy but other people would find difficult.

Incidentally I've found photography - the theory - very difficult to grasp... and I am currently trying to master a new graphics tablet with a pen and I feel as though someone's just given me a new hand. I can't get it to go where I want at all!

We must persevere! (They sound like some lovely men!)

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Sue, you never fail to amaze and inspire me with your courage and honesty. Please trust your innate sensitivity and that 'good eye' to take you through photography in the way that works for YOU. I love the idea of a book for writers walks.
Susiex

Sally said...

My heart is with you Sue. I've had some scary times too when all seemed lost but we have both come out of those times stronger women - in fact, forces to be reckoned with I think!
Could I share this post with Helen Morcom, the lovely photographer who was one of our amazing tutors on our course? She is very keen to help other people become photographers and to share her skills.
With love and looking forward to a good sing tomorrow. xx

ADDY said...

Good for you. Maybe you can give us some tips when you know how. I tend to be a point-and-shoot photographer with the settings on auto. I never seem to have the time to read up how else I could do it!

Chris Stovell said...

It's frightening, isn't it, when a memories are triggered which so undermine your confidence. You're facing your demons very bravely by persevering with the photography, I'm not sure I'd be so brave. Well done.

Flowerpot said...

It's horrible, but I'm sure we've all been there. Thanks,Chris. If I didn't have to do this for work I might not persevere.

Flowerpot said...

Addy - I'm more a point and shoot person, too! Trying to make the time is the tricky bit....

Flowerpot said...

Sally - you're right. I will just be glad to get out the other side if I do! I'm not able to do Helen'#s next course but maybe the one after that - or something. See you tomorrow, with love xx

Flowerpot said...

Susie - Ihope you're right! Thanks for that - I don't know that I'm courageous but many thanks too. x

Flowerpot said...

JJ - you're right we are all different aren't they? I think teachers should remember that too. I'm glad youve found photography difficult to grasp, too. It's not just me! Great news on your achievements well done you! xx Yes some men are lovely!

Akelamalu said...

How awful that trying to do something you enjoy should catapult you backwards. I would hazard a guess that it's more down to the instructor than to your ability to understand FP - a good instructor should be able to make you understand without you feeling stupid. x

Flowerpot said...

Ak - Life trips you up sometimes, doesn't it? I think our tutor is used to teaching more advanced students perhaps. he knows so much that it's difficult to come down ot our level maybe. (Just noticed my comments on JJ's comments. So many !!!!s my CT editor would cringe.) Hell, I'm cringing...

Talli Roland said...

I can totally relate to that feeling! I'm hopeless with anything requiring technical know-how (although I'm pretty good with picking things up intuitively). But as soon as someone adopts that oh-so-patient tone as they try to explain things to me, my mind goes into meltdown.

I'm so impressed you kept at it! I'm not sure I would have... I need to take a lesson for your persistence.

Flowerpot said...

Talli - glad it's not just me! As for persistence - well it's all part of work, otherwise I don't know that I would keep at it. Mind you, I also know that I feel terrible if something like this gets teh better of me.

Deborah (Debs) Carr said...

I'm hopeless at anything technical. In fact the thought of anything to do with figures or technology makes me shiver. Well done to you for perservering.

Deborah (Debs) Carr said...

I forgot to say I've awarded you a Sunshine Award over on my blog.x

Flowerpot said...

Debs - and another non-techy person thank god!

Flowerpot said...

Debs - I forgot to say thank you! Heading over there now....

Philipa said...

"I was broken all right". How odd, I've posted on a similar theme myself, here.

Fractions? Never heard that one before, Sue. I think I may be able to help you. I'll email if that's ok?

Flowerpot said...

Yes Phil please do email me. Look forward to hearing from you. xx

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I'm a real technophobe and would probably feel just the same. Photography is wonderful if you can do it, but the technicalities of it just baffle me!

If you're interested, I have a lot of cd's to use in a computer that I got free with 2 years worth of subscription to photography magazines. I've never used them but I'd be more than happy to send them to you. If you're interested, let me know - crystal.jigsaw7@btinternet.com

I don't want them but haven't had the heart to throw them away!

CJ x

Flowerpot said...

That's very kind, CJ, but I do have some CDs that came with the camera - I find them somewhat baffling!