Photography in Lockdown: Motivations & Limitations

Nikon F

What extraordinary times we find ourselves in. The the threat from the global covid-19 pandemic is a serious concern for all of us and it doesn’t look like the ‘lockdown’ is going to be lifted for some time. The photography business like many areas of the economy is effectively on on indefinite hold and teaching has moved to ‘distance’ learning. I have been busy trying to exploit any available technology solutions to keep in touch with students, to encourage and support them and help them keep some sort of perspective. Who knows when we will see some semblance of normality.

Like many of you I am pretty much confined to quarters. I have been in self isolation for 4 weeks and even now I am only venturing out for occasional constitutional walks, exercising as far as humanly possible the recommended social distancing protocols. All of this means that my photographic activities, both commercial and independent, have been severely restricted, not least of all because the vast majority of my photography is of people. ‘Small beer’ in the grand scheme of things I agree, but it did set me to thinking as to what can I do to satisfy that irrepressible urge to pick up a camera? Well, I’ve had some ideas and in this series of posts I thought I would share them with you, along with some reflection and observation on progress. Perhaps I can encourage you to have a go yourself.

My first thought was that I needed some specific objectives, I would need to feel that there was some purpose, some direction, but any proposed activities would be limited by the present set of circumstances. I considered the following parameters:

  • The subject matter of any series or investigation would need to be photographed at home, i.e. in the house or in the garden.
  • I would have to work with available resources; by available I mean stuff I already had and that was already at home. This has proved tricky as many lines of thought soon lead to an impasse; “I could do that but I haven’t got a…”.
  • Whatever I chose to pursue would need to challenge me technically, logistically and aesthetically. It would need to hold my interest and satisfy a need to learn. With these parameters in mind I have set myself a series of ‘projects’, the first being to get back in touch with nature

The weather in the past few weeks has been exceptional, brilliant sunshine and wall to wall blue skies. As is always the case at this time of year the natural world is waking up and during my isolation I have been witness to this. I have always been conscious of nature with a particular interest in birdlife, but I have never really pursued natural history photography in a sustained or meaningful way. I am acutely aware that there are some superb natural history photographers out there who have the skills, knowledge and dedication to understanding to create stunning images which illustrate not just the physical appearance of their chosen subject but its context, environment and behaviour. It is a specialism, it is their chosen specialism, it’s just not been my specialism. However, circumstances being what they are, perhaps I have an opportunity to address this.

Of course I realise that in simply spending a few weeks of this lockdown on a sort of  ‘garden safari’ (as I am proposing), I will in no way be able to match or even come close to the quality of work that those who have dedicated their careers to this genre have achieved; that would be wholly unrealistic. That is not (and cannot sensibly be) the target. A more realistic goal would be to simply capture some natural history images that are ‘better’ than those I have made before. If I can make some images that are more refined, more precise than my previous efforts and along the way improve my knowledge through investigation and practical experience, I will treat that as success.

Truth to tell, I’ve already started.

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Duncan Shepherd