The book I’m currently writing, Photo Camino, is principally a guide to taking photos on the Camino.
However I am peppering it with a few anecdotes.
Here I post an excerpt of what happens when someone offers to take a photo of me…
I pity anyone who offers to take my photo. They don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. First I instruct them on what to do, which straight up offends them, because of course they know how to take a photo. These people are usually the ones who ask. “Which button do I press?”
I then watch like a hawk as they take the shot, and I know immediately that it’s not going to be any good. They proudly hand me back the camera, kind of like TAH-DAH! and wait for me to check it and tell them what a great shot they took.
So I check it, and of course the shot is completely unacceptable.
I show it to them and explain patiently where they got it wrong – mainly framing and headroom issues, but sometimes they’ve got the focus wrong too. And then I ask them to do it again, which stretches the newly acquired friendship somewhat. So begrudgingly they take the shot again, and again I check it. And again it’s not right. So once again I tell them what’s wrong, and how they can do it better – ignoring their growing sense of enmity towards me, as if it’s MY fault that we have to go through this charade.
So they take another shot – and it’s better but not perfect – and then we take another – and by now I can feel their barely suppressed rage radiating out towards me like heat from a wood-fired stove – and being a pilgrim, I forgive them.
Often it’s focus. They somehow or other get the automatic focus wrong, which to me is incomprehensible, so I put the camera on manual focus and pre-focus for them. I make sure the exposure settings are correct, remind them of the framing and stress NOT TOO MUCH HEADROOM, and then finally when I’m sure that they can’t possible get anything wrong, I allow them to take the shot.
I ask to check it once again, and for a moment I get the feeling they’re about to hurl the camera into my face. But they hand me the camera, their agitation now undisguised, as if they had some place better they needed to be.
By now the sun is setting, we’re losing light anyway, and the memory card is full. The shot is ok – not great but ok – so I thank them, using all of my not inconsiderable charm, and watch as they walk quickly away, breaking into a run…