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Ten paces end to end, ten paces side to side. Not a lot of space, but it was lockdown time, so this would be my world for however long it took. The view wasn’t too promising. A high hedge, a fence, a garage, the conservatory and, praise be, one open aspect towards the heather-clad hills, visible (just) between the multi-storey car park and a supermarket.

There were loads of helpful and fun suggestions to keep photographers active. I loved some of the brilliant macro shots and little scenes using Lego and model-railway figures. How I envied the lucky few whose garden rolled down to the water’s edge and they captured everything from otters to passing dolphins. There were also courses and training videos galore. Maybe I could concentrate on learning all the complicated ins-and-outs of a new editing set-up? I put my camera away.

Even Arthur’s wife became an unknowing photographic subject during lockdown

A lightbulb moment
In my office, blinds closed, I stared at a monitor. Outside it was the sunniest spring since records began, so I spent time sneaking out for yet another coffee or cold drink in the garden, lazily watching the gulls, my eye distracted by the odd butterfly. That was it, my lightbulb moment! There was lots to photograph here: I just had to wait for the subjects to come to me. 

By the end of a week, at the first sound of combatant gulls or jet engines, I could scoop up my camera, switch on, do any compensation changes, all without looking, zoom out and be hunting my target in five seconds flat. I’d never been this proficient and fast before! 

I tracked butterflies sunbathing, bees gorging themselves, ladybirds socially distancing on a bench, even, despite a lifelong aversion, spiders. Trying to keep a darting hover-fly in the viewfinder, never mind in focus, passed many a locked-up hour.

Turning the local historic abbey into something that might have been taken on a plate camera brought a moral dilemma. Not because mine wasn’t really an old photo but because I can’t actually see it from my garden. Cheating? No, because I can… as long as I climb up to the garage roof! Even my wife became an unknowing subject, gazing wistfully at blue skies reflected on a window that might as well have had bars on it.

Despite being rather too easily persuaded that outdoors was better than in, I still managed to get to grips with that editing system, adding a bit of black & white or watercolour effect. Modestly, I look on this ‘portfolio’ as an achievement. No award-winning pictures, but a monument to beating boredom – and I learned an awful lot. Not just technique but how to see pictures and having the patience to look for, and wait for, the different angle. There’s more to photography than obsession with expensive gear, the biggest sensor, and image resolution most people will never need. It’s about the everyday things of the, in this case, very small world you live in.

My unlikely photo studio turned out to be a stone-slabbed, plastic-grassed field of gold, where making the most of a limited subject range was great fun but, oh, by the time you read this, please let me be back in the great outdoors again.

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