Consolation Prize

Butterfly in Black and White (c) Kim Ralls

Whenever I chat with holiday-makers in the Dales the talk inevitably turns to how I’ve adapted to living here compared with the South. It goes without saying that the pace of life in a little country village is not the same as it is in a crowded town, though I certainly don’t miss it, and of course the scenery is a marked improvement in the Dales.

“Still,” the holiday-makers often say, “I expect you’ve come to take it for granted.”

I always try to delay my answer to this statement so it doesn’t sound like I’m raising a hasty protest. The fact is, after nearly fifteen years of living in the Dales, I still find delight in the scenery and the various walks I’ve done. There are always new paths to explore and I think that even under leaden skies and torrential rain the Dales look beautiful.

That said, from a photographer’s point of view there are the frustrating days when I wish the weather would clear or that the wildlife would play ball and let me snap just one photo that wasn’t a sheep or cow.

Since I bought my camera, it’s been a rare occasion when I leave the house for a walk without it. There are days, however, when I find myself deleting almost all of the shots I’ve taken for the reason that they’re not as interesting as I thought when I took them or, in all honesty, they’re just not very good.

One day I’d been out for a short walk ‘around the block’ (i.e. a walk of less than two miles) under grey skies that kept threatening rain. I took plenty of photos of the clouds above the hills thinking that they might look suitably dramatic once I had loaded them onto the computer and converted them to black and white.

But I will admit I was feeling a little depressed. You can only take so many pictures of clouds before the monotony gets to you. Out of all the photos I took that day, only three have been kept and they have nothing to do with clouds.

In fact, I returned home, put the photos on the computer and did nothing with them for months. I just couldn’t face editing a bunch of cloud pictures that looked as though they had nothing to offer. I don’t know if anyone else has been in that situation, but I can tell you it nearly put me off photography for good, especially when I would go online and look at the photos in several FaceBook groups I’m a member of. The photos in these are nothing short of spectacular (despite the groups having names like Beginners Photography and UK Amateur Photography) and comparing my dull cloudscapes with awe-inspring shots of sunrises and sunsets and people out in the street can be fairly demoralising. Of course, the purpose of these groups isn’t to show off, but to chat to and learn from each other and if anybody is thinking of taking up photography then they can do worse than join one or more of these groups.

About three months later I was looking through my old photos, opened a folder and saw the three photos that I had decided to keep from this walk. They hadn’t been edited and I was really surprised. I hadn’t forgotten about taking them, but I was really surprised that I hadn’t even processed them.

1. Feeding time (c) Kim Ralls

I may have mentioned before, but I find butterflies fascinating and I always try to photograph them. The problem, of course, is that they’re flighty little things and it can be very hard to get close to them if you don’t have a long enough lens (which I don’t). It was towards the end of my rather uninspiring walk that the sun broke through the clouds for just a few moments and I was able to photograph these red admirals feeding on the plants by the footpath.

2. My proudest moment as a photographer (c) Kim Ralls

The second photo ranks at the top of my favourite images that I’ve taken. Compared to pro wildlife photographers, it’s probably not that spectacular, but considering my equipment and its limitations (not to mention my own inexperience as a photographer), I’m very proud of this photo.

Obviously, like me, butterflies are best photographed when distracted by food.

Both images were cropped slightly (the second image was taken from about the same distance as the cover photo at the top of this entry). I wanted to focus on the butterfly and even getting as close as I did there was a lot of extra stuff in the photo that distracted the eye.

It just goes to show, however, that even on the days when nothing seems to go right and you feel down and depressed, there will come that one bright moment that makes it all worthwhile.

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