1. The Parking Space That Never Was – as you drive along with your trusty camera at your side, you notice an awesome vista from your car window – an amazing sunset, the sun shining through the clouds on a field of mustard seed, a lone tree on a verdant green hillside. Immediately you know that you must stop and capture this moment for posterity and for your Facebook page. So you drive along, casting your eyes left and right looking for somewhere to pull over. You get further down the road, the view starts changing, you have irritated drivers behind you leaning on their car horns, but still nowhere to pull over. You see a turning ahead, do a 180 and drive back the way you came in case you missed something. Finally you spot a place to pull over. You park, grab your camera and sprint back up the road, dodging the traffic, until finally you arrive at the spot, but now the light has changed and the sunset’s fading and the mustard seed looks like mud and the lone tree looks like any other tree in a field. You limp back to your car, beads of sweat on your forehead and a small gash on your arm where a tree branch caught you. And you’ve lost your favourite lens cap. Oh cruel gods, why do they mock you so?
2. Flies – mosquitos, sandflies, horseflies, blue bottles, gnats, midges – you name a species of fly and there isn’t a landscape photographer worth his salt that hasn’t been driven to near apoplexy by the the flitty little fuckers. Forget to cover yourself in Agent Orange before venturing out and it will turn into a battle of the wills as you desperately try to focus on the scenery while those blood suckers find every centimetre of uncovered flesh and torture you past the point of endurance. Even if you do cover yourself in a vile-smelling repellent (that is probably slowly rendering you infertile), the flies will find the chink in your armour (usually your ankle or the top of your arse cheek) and exploit it. There is no escape short of taking up underwater photography.
3. The Missing Memory Card – so demoralising is this that it only needs to happen once for a photographer to put in place exhaustive and fool-proof redundancy measures, but it can and must happen to every photographer at least once. You arrive at your destination, set up your tripod, mount the camera, line up the view and only then discover there’s no card in the camera. You hunt around in your camera bag for a spare but there’s not one to be found. You stare at the awesome view, breath in deeply and then produce a sigh so heavy with longing that unicorns appear from the ether and offer you crystal tears of condolence. But the crystal unicorn tears in the ether can’t magic a memory card into your camera and it’s with a heavy heart that you pack up and head home, filled with a burning intent that you will never find yourself in this situation again.
4. I Thought It was Focused – you’re on location, enjoying a stunning view and filling your camera’s memory card with solid gold keepers. You squint through the viewfinder and crack off shot after shot until the light reaches the peak of awesomeness and you go hand-held firing off shot after magnificent shot. Back at home you stare at the shots in Lightroom and there’s the sequence when the light was at its best and … it’s all blurry? Perhaps the autofocus failed you or you were focusing manually and you somehow managed to nudge the focus dial. The end result is that the best of your shots looks like an eye test. Situations like these, and the constant focus checking it leads to, are why photographers are often diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder.
5. The Mystery of the Flat Battery – like the missing memory card, suffering from a power outage right in the middle of a shoot is a distressing experience. But how could this happen? We are scrupulous in our battery charging. We would never let such an obvious thing occur. We always make a point of charging up flat batteries … until that one time when we don’t. And you can guarantee that when that time comes, you will not have a boot big enough to kick yourself in the arse with.
6. Shitty Location Instructions – so you’ve finally managed to weedle the location of a secret spot out of a photographer chum and have decided to pay it a visit the next morning for a cool sunrise shoot. Only problem is the location instructions you were given are worse than useless. You set off down footpaths to come to dead-ends. You trip over obstacles in the dark and curse your guide. You start wishing you’d paid the place a visit during daylight hours instead of thrashing around in near-darkness with only a two line description to guide you to the mystical photo-spot. You finally arrive at the location, only to discover that it has two approaches, one of which is about as photogenic as a multi-storey carpark, and guess which one you’ve found. Maybe next time.
7. Zoom Creep or Grad Droop – you get your shot lined up perfectly, framed and composed beautifully, the ideal light playing out across the scene. Knowing everything will change within seconds, you go to press the shutter, but before you record the scene the zoom creeps south throwing it out of focus, or the ND Grad filter slips down, masking the horizon too low. Then when you finally get everything sorted, the light changes and the moment has gone.
8. The Chatty Bystander – you lift your head from the viewfinder and find him standing at your elbow. He’s craning his pock-marked neck in towards yours in an effort to see what’s on the LCD screen. You shudder slightly and stand aside so he can see it. He makes primal noises, clucks and ooohs. Be warned, this is just the warm-up, pretty soon he will begin a long and very tedious story about one of these subjects 1) how the place has changed since he started visiting it 50 years ago, 2) how his 12 year old nephew got a camera three weeks ago and now has 172,000 followers on Instagram, 3) how he used to take photos on a Rolleiflex 2.8A and develop the prints himself in his luxuriously appointed darkroom. This conversation will continue until you pick up your tripod and physically move him out of the way so you can get to your car and make good your escape.
9. The Lying Sunset – you know how to read the clouds, you’ve looked at the satellite and the radar, you’ve cast bones into a pewter bowl and burnt a lock of hair over it – you’re sure this sunset is going to fire and fire good. It begins, you start taking shots, the colours deepen and you get ready for the visual crescendo and then, like life’s other diappointments, the premature ejaculation, the shart and the push-up bra, the sky goes grey. Almost instantly all colour bleeds from the sky and you’re left with three shades of grey and a largely empty memory card.
10. The Workshop Whirlwind – as you enjoy the serenity of your location, you take a moment to admire the scenery and for that short period banish thoughts about aperture and ISO from your mind. As you soak up the ambience you hear a chattering noise in the distance and it’s growing louder. You pray to the gods of photography that it’s not true, it can’t be, not now. But it is. From the track below, a crowd of heads appear, lead by a man wielding a tripod so substantial you could mount a Howitzer on it. Oh god no, it’s a workshop. Sure enough, moments later, your peaceful spot is over-run with students who think a couple of hours in the company of a photographer who had a photo published by National Geographic in 1984 will make them golden. The man talks loudly about the scene, about settings, about bracketing, about filters, he points to where you’re standing and tells everyone to get set up. Back-packs are opened, shiny new DSLRs are prised from pristine camera bags. Tripods with price-tags still on them are folded open. Instruction is given in mounting said shiny new camera on said shiny new tripod. The old lady next to you kicks your tripod in the middle of a five second exposure. The girl on your other side mistakes you for another student and tries to copy the settings on the back of your camera, but can’t work out how to set the ISO, she asks you, you begin to tell her that you’re not with the group and then give up and show her. You give in and pack up, moving off to another spot. You set up, you exhale, you compose your shot and then … in the distance … you hear a chattering noise …