I often overlook the weird, wonderful and antisocial aspects of being a nature photographer, but I can only do this because my partner has a very tolerant attitude. Several months ago, to demonstrate my appreciation of this tolerance, I let my then girlfriend post a series of observations about being a nature photographer's significant other. Now, in light of our recent marriage, I've decided to re-release these (with edits) and hope that they'll ring true to the long-suffering partners in your life too. Enjoy.
1. Goodbye pleasant drive. Welcome, ‘road kill reconnaissance’.
Gone are the days of averting my eyes from a squished rabbit on the road. Since adjusting to the revelation that he collects road kill for the purpose of enticing photogenic buzzards, my daily commute has become an occasion for scrutinizing the freshness of a flattened pheasant or the plumpness of an unfortunate bunny. For a long time, my role in this sinister task was strictly 'hands-off', but now, as I peel a furry morsel from the tarmac, I find myself asking 'when did this become normal?' I'm yet to learn the answer, but as long as there are photographs to reward the effort, long may it continue.
2. Learning to live with the ‘no interference’ approach.
Being a responsible kind of photographer, my husband takes a ‘no interference’ approach to watching wildlife. This is nice when it means admiring otters from afar as they frolic in the seaweed. It's a very different matter when he chooses not to interfere with the spiders inhabiting our home. 'Phillipe', he tells me, had been inhabiting our lampshade for weeks before I discovered him (Note - no spider was harmed, just evicted)!
3. Walks will never be the same.
When every foray into the great outdoors becomes an assessment of light and photographic potential, a ‘gentle stroll’ ceases to exist. Hours can be spent simply pondering the possibilities and taking trial shots, while other couples noodle on by, hand in hand with peace and tranquillity as their guide. Meanwhile, you’ll find me sitting on a rock somewhere cold, waiting for our walk to continue. Who said photographers are the patient ones?
4. Invoking Photographer’s Guilt
In the spirit of give and take, I do like to accompany my partner on the odd photography mission. There’s little sacrifice in sitting outdoors surrounded by nature (except for when plagued by midges). Sadly, my husband doesn't see it this way. He sees a pitifully wind-swept, red-cheeked, midge-bitten creature longing for her spouse to put down his camera. It's a reaction that I like to call ‘photographer’s guilt’, a delusion that invariably leads to a curtailed photography mission and a grumpy husband with few photographs to show for his effort.
5. Deflecting attempts to ‘make a photographer of you.’
It doesn't matter how many of my own hobbies I have, when ‘photographer’s guilt’ arises, my partner is very quick to suggest a solution. It usually begins: ‘if you become a photographer…” What he means to qualify this with is: ‘you won’t look like such a spare part’; ‘I won’t feel so bad when you’re waiting for me’ or, even better ‘we could do photography all of the time and it’d count as time together.’ A simple ‘no, thank you’, is usually sufficient to suppress the attempt, but more creative deflections have included ‘look, a white-tailed sea eagle’ or ‘shhhh, I think there’s an otter over there.’ The overriding desire to capture the perfect shot usually sees him silenced.
6. Learning to be silent and be silenced.
Being ‘shushed’ by someone is rude and it is belittling. Yet, it’s surprising how quickly this becomes acceptable in the context of nature photography. When the flash of blue from a passing kingfisher catches my eye, or my husband glimpses the tail of a Red Squirrel, there’s only one way to savour that moment. In silence. A hand over the mouth, sign language, even a ‘shush’ - the silence can be achieved by whatever means necessary, because being able to share the resulting wildlife encounter will always make it worthwhile.
7. Rivalling knowledge
I may snub the call of photography in favour of my own hobbies, but this hasn't prevented me from acquiring some skill of my own. In fact, when it comes to spotting wildlife and studying their behaviour, my knowledge has even come to rival that of my partner. He may have the patience to sit in a hide for days at a time, but I can spot an Otter in the water before he’s picked up his binoculars.
8. Forfeiting holiday snaps.
When my husband's camera accompanies us on holiday, it’s like being joined by a third person. It takes up an extra seat in the car, fills an extra suitcase, never gets left alone and is handled with more care than anything else we possess. Strangely, for all of this extra effort, photographs of us enjoying some of the incredible locations we've visited are rare. Our faces will simply never be as expressive as the family of Little Owls we watched in Pembrokeshire, or as majestic as the Golden Eagle we saw on the Isle of Arran. Our photo album is less a collection of holiday snaps than an encyclopedia of wildlife in Britain and if I'm honest, I prefer it that way. Here's one of the rare ones though, taken on our honeymoon in Alaska... a photographer's paradise.