The right tools

Arriving at any new venue, it is easy to expect that you will be able to capture the perfect “Google” photo – that classic ‘wow’ image that appears when you tap a location into a search engine. It is a natural reaction and one we are all prone to.  But the weather gods are fickle, often conspiring to scupper our preconceptions when we actually get out of the car.

As you head to the planet’s extremities (which climatically includes our back garden in battered Upland Scotland) in your quest for the perfect image, the expectation of a benign climate exponentially reduces. Which is why it is of the utmost importance to prepare.

When running workshops you are often asked about your favourite piece of equipment, with an expectation that you will wax lyrical over your beloved prime lens or the quality of the latest camera’s sensor. But this is rarely the case in reality – if your fingers are freezing or your head sunburnt you are unlikely to be focused on the job at hand. In summer in Scotland, woe betide if you forget your midge net on a windless summer’s evening – I have been chased, literally screaming, from a venue without a single image, having set up my camera to find myself clothed in biting satanic monsters. Marvel Super Villains have nothing on these guys, who can leave a sane human sobbing deliriously or running lemming-like off cliffs to escape.

After many hard-learned lessons, I am improving on my preparations for going into the field. The fewer things I need to think about the better, given my age and a propensity towards forgetfulness. In the field, you should have to consider as few things as possible to allow you to concentrate on your vision for the task at hand. All else should be secondary. You should not have to think about your tools, rather they should be intuitive and operate exactly as you want without having to consciously remember and think. I do not need fancy gizmos, the latest gadget or app that tells me how I should do what I should already know. What I want is things that simply do their job.

A prime example was on a recent workshop to the Faroes. We were blessed with almost every weather condition imaginable from driving rain and wind that bit into cheekbones to glorious blue skies. Supporting the team, I needed to be able to hold and deposit lenses quickly to enable them to focus on the photo; to be flexible and comfortable; to be out for several hours and remain dry and warm. Whilst exploring ideas for the participants I shot these images, which gives some idea of what we were up against. It is in such environments that my Páramo Halcon Jacket becomes invaluable.

On our recent workshops and trips to Iceland, Faroes, Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, it has become a “without thought” addition to the kit list. These are harsh and unpredictable environments where the right clothing is essential (and I prefer not to have to take 3 suitcases with me to cover all the options). This jacket is the most flexible for photography I have ever worn. I can batten down the hatches when things get a little wild and ventilate on the go when walking without having to take off a rucksack.  Without thinking, I stuff lenses, filters, gloves, almost anything in fact (including midge hats!) into the innumerable pockets and can wander off without having to keep my bag by my side every second. The wind does not penetrate so I am warm. The jacket does not squeak, rattle or rustle.  I remain dry (though warm is more important). It is not fluorescent orange! I could go on. The reality is that this coat allows me to focus on the one important thing – the photo – whilst doing its job seamlessly plus acting as several spare sets of hands. 

And that for me makes my Halcon an invaluable tool and, as it ages, a friend. Now I can let the jacket deal with the weather gods and be my assistant, allowing me to concentrate on my photography.

Ted Leeming, Leeming Paterson

All images ©Ted Leeming

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