Or so I thought.
In fact, it turns out that the tools make all the difference.
I take a secret pride in putting up reasonably decent photographs, although I know nothing about the technical side of photography. I have tried reading those special magazines but my brain just goes phhhtt. It’s something about the acronyms and the clinical language and the thicketty prose. I get lost and then I get cross. I hurl the thing aside and think: sod it, I’m just going to point and shoot.
For many years, I’ve had a delightful Olympus PEN. It has seen me straight and seen me curly, and it has put up with an awful lot. It’s been dropped in the mud so many times and tumbled from the back of the horse so often that it is all cracked and scratched and little threads of Scottish earth are ingrained in it. I lost the lens cap some time before the Old Queen died, and so the lens is always a tiny bit smeary. Some of the functions frankly no longer work.
But I hate the notion of disposable things, and I’ve never been one of those crazed people who always has to upgrade to a new model. I have one bog-standard mobile telephone, nothing smart about it, which I hope will last for years, and I’m cherishing this dear old computer, so it, too, might stay the distance. I quite liked that my camera was a bit bashed and battered, as if it and I had been in combat together. After all, Cartier-Bresson did not need any bells and whistles. He shot pictures for the ages with his trusty old Leica. But then, he was Cartier-Bresson. I am no Henri, nor was meant to be.
In the end, the camera made up my mind for me. The crucial battery charger went mysteriously missing. It’s probably in a field somewhere. (I carry it around with me, in case I have a battery emergency, which I thought was a good plan until I could not find the thing.) Ah well, I thought; it’s time.
Because I love taking photographs, and because I am in charge of the HorseBack Facebook page, where I must make an effort to produce something reasonably professional, I had thought I might grade up to a proper SLR. The Olympus is one of those three-quarter cameras, not quite as posh.
But I’d tried out my stepfather’s Nikon, and had not got on with it at all. I looked about on the internet, and all the high-end cameras were so expensive and so foreign to me. I decided to stick with the one I knew and loved, even though it felt a little unadventurous. I would effectively be getting a replacement, not something new.
I had not taken in the fact that the good people at Olympus have been very, very busy in the six years since I last bought a camera. The new PEN is a completely different beast to the clunky old thing I had before. It is ravishingly beautiful, small, tight, light, pleasingly retro, and neat as a pin. The shutter makes the loveliest sound I have heard any piece of equipment ever make. I found myself snapping away just to hear the delightful old-fashioned clunky click.
And, oh, oh, the pictures. Suddenly, everything is sharp again. There is depth of field and all sorts. I can do everything on automatic, which is good for a dolt like me. I really can point and shoot. The camera does it all for me, in the most charming and helpful way. It almost feels like cheating but I don’t care, because the results are so lovely. I feel like I’m back in the hunt.
I do love recording this beautiful place, and my beautiful animals, and my beautiful hills. Now, instead of struggling with old and creaking equipment, I can see every gleaming detail of the moss and the lichen, so that I look at them anew, and remember why I love them so. I suddenly realise that I had lost some of my joy in photographing things, because I was always having to edit and delete to produce a half-decent result. Now, I have my mojo again, thanks to my little Bobby Dazzler. I almost want to send a thank you letter to the brilliant boffins at Olympus, and the kind people at Curry’s, who put the marvellous article in their sale so that I got a raging bargain, and sent it out to me post haste. I am rejuvenated. Snap, snap, snap, eh Mr Gibbon. I am so happy I feel like doing a little dance. I may, in fact, do a little dance. Perhaps for the red duchess, as entertainment while she eats her tea. She’ll like that.
Never were those two words typed with so much joy. Just look:
And, as if all that joy were not enough, THE FIRST SNOWDROPS ARRIVED. Too, too much:
The only thing about the dear PEN is that it can’t quite deal with very dense colours. I noticed that with my old one, and this is the same. I imagine that is where the SLR might beat it. You can see that the intense whiteness of the snowdrops is almost too much for it. But it’s such a tiny drop in the sea of loveliness that it seems almost churlish to mention it.
Down at the field, the duchess was sweetly and gently and politely waiting for her tea, and graciously posed without complaint whilst I faffed about with my new toy instead of mixing up her Thunderbrook’s:
That’s her sweetest, softest face, the one she wears when she is utterly at peace and all is well in her world.
And this is her I’VE GOT MY HAY face. There’s no special filter or effect on this picture. That really was the colour of the Scottish light at 4pm:
And one more of Captain Handsome, because one can’t have enough handsomeness:
And one last one before I really must stop -
Is there tea yet?:
Oh, and as if that was not enough happiness for one day, Teaforthree, one of the horses I love the most, won the Hunter Chase at Bangor with a glorious combination of composure, enthusiasm, strength and diamond-sharp jumping. He was given a beautiful ride by Jamie Codd, as quiet as a tranquil sky, trusting the clever old fellow to see his own stride at each fence, seeing him to the line with hands and heels. It was a shining sight, man and equine in perfect harmony, and it made me smile and smile and smile.