Being a cat who likes to spend a large proportion of his free time pondering life’s mysteries and reflecting on his role in the ecosystem, I am a firm believer that there is always something more to learn from being alive, providing of course that you choose to live as opposed to simply survive. Whether it’s learning how to improve your chocolate chip brownies or trying to understand why your cat swipes your legs as you walk past him, life always has more to teach those of us who will listen. One way to learn is through experience but as Oscar Wilde said …”experience is the hardest kind of teacher, it gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards”… So John and I often opt for an easier method of learning which involves going to school. Luckily it’s not the kind of school where the teacher yells at you for not pulling your socks up and you get essays for your homework, it’s the Mark Pain Sports Photography School.
Mark Pain is an internationally recognised award-winning sports photographer and an excellent teacher who is well connected in the world of sports having covered many major events from the Olympic Games to the Ryder cup. John and I have joined Mark for many of his sessions as a way to improve our photography skills and seek out new opportunities to shoot different subjects in fresh surroundings. Sports photography is inspiring because competing athletes feel joy, anger or sadness at their performances and the challenge for the photographer is to capture those emotions and convey them to the viewer. Like the look of pure concentration on the diver who glides gracefully into the water or the beam of satisfaction on the player’s face as the golf club swings through the best shot of the contest.
Low angle shots give us a different view on the world and these are easy for me to capture because I am so close to the ground. Mark taught me this technique when John and I attended a mountain bike event earlier this year and it was particularly effective because the riders would hurtle down the slopes and fly off the ramps at interesting angles which when shot from ground level looked even more dramatic. Well the high-flying moves certainly looked exciting to me as I craned my neck to watch the mud-covered bikers soar fearlessly above me and land with a thud and a skid a few feet down the track. Honestly you have to be quite brave as a feline photographer and I’ve had many a broken claw and fur loss incident as a result of my dedication to camerawork!
As I write this blog John is in Manchester with Mark working hard to get some first-class shots as official photographers for the Taekwondo 2015 World Championships. It’s a long weekend away so I decided to stay at home and contemplate my existence while my aunties (that’s John’s daughters and extended family) cater for my needs until John returns. I got distracted flicking through some of the photos John and I took at the rugby match we attended with Mark over the summer, thinking about the clever techniques Mark taught us to capture the burly players way up the other end of the pitch. I started imagining the focus and the thrill the players must have felt as they grunted and bull-dozed their way towards the goal posts with the ball in their hands. I lunged, I scored a try, then I woke up and realised that I was having a dream and had accidently put my teddy bear in the water bowl. Yes that’s right I have a teddy and I’m not ashamed to admit it! I dragged him out of the water and popped him on the radiator so that he would be dry and fluffy once more, ready for snuggles that night. After all, I need something soft and warm to sleep on until John comes home and I can use his belly as a pillow.
I’ve got ‘the wild’ right on my doorstep in the form of a rather overgrown back garden. John says he’s let it get back to nature, but I suspect this noble sentiment is an excuse for not mowing the lawn! Nevertheless, we both enjoy looking at the garden and all the treasures it holds which is why I like to take a stroll around it from time to time, admiring Mother Nature while I think about my work. In the 2 ½ years that John and I have been running Shadow Photography, I’ve been involved with happy couples planning their wedding day, excited exhausted mothers eager to have pictures of their young baby for the mantelpiece, highly strung horses next to shiny horse boxes and wily creatures who shy away from the camera. You can find stories about my experiences and examples of the colourful and dynamic images I have produced during my work if you look back at https://shadthecat.wordpress.com/.
Weddings are great because people are always happy and the atmosphere is one of romance and optimism. A bit like the mood created by these adorable garden birds who decided to have a splash together in the bath while I was crouching under the shrubbery with my camera. Some of the birds in the garden (like the sparrows, blue tits and great tits featured in the photos) are so small I’m amazed they don’t get blown away by the wind. Don’t worry, I’m not tempted to chase them, I’m far too busy analysing the light and shade in the frame, judging depth of field and generally perfecting my photography skills to be dashing around after my feathered friends. I was really lucky to catch a glimpse of a green woodpecker as you can see from the picture and I would have taken more shots only this worker bee kept buzzing around the flowers right next to me and it really put me off!
I like to take pictures of the flowers because I can play with the focus and emphasise the colour to create some striking shots, like these views of the cherry blossom and bluebell-type plants in the garden. I have produced a number of beautiful prints from these shots as well as more abstract images from the magnificent architecture that lies at the heart of history in this country. They make a lovely gift to yourself or someone you care about so if you’re tempted, check out http://www.shadow-photography.com/. On the website you’ll also discover the portfolio of work that John and I have developed over the last couple of years which gives you a flavour of our style. Please remember us if you want a professional portrait at a preferential rate, or if you have a friend who plays in a band or a family member getting married and you want to capture the fun on film. In the meantime, I’ll continue to share my thoughts and snapshots with you in this blog while I beaver away at building the business. Shadow Photography is there for all your photographic needs and John and I only require a cup of coffee and a saucer of cat milk to keep us happy and working hard!
This is a moment for celebration and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you lovely readers for your commitment and interest in Shad the Cat’s blog. The reason for celebration is that I’ve had 10,000 views. I love sharing my escapades and reflections with you and I sincerely hope you enjoy reading about them. I do have a tendency to contemplate life and sometimes it’s hard for me as a cat to live in a world I don’t always understand. But I try not to grumble too much despite all the crazy and often unkind things that go on in this beautiful world. I hope to continue spreading a little smile across all your faces in the months to come and give you a few insights into the unique requirements of the feline variety, as well as some other of my other furry, scaly and prickly friends from the animal kingdom.
A whole year has gone by since I first started blogging about my escapades and I would like to thank you for your interest and support. The dolphin sea adventure that I told you about last time was my 100th blog and I couldn’t let that go by without marking it with a few thoughts and a selection of photos that include some of my favourites as well as some of the most popular ones currently being viewed on John’s Flickr account.
So that’s 100 blogs in 365 days. Not bad for a cat who spends at least 2 hours a day licking and 14 hours a day sleeping, and who doesn’t even have opposable thumbs! I am well looked after by John, I run my own photography business, and I get to spend time with nature and other animals, being part of something bigger than the stresses and strains of everyday life.
There are still many things I would like to achieve and I suspect that I will accomplish some and not others. But the point is, to keep trying, no matter how many obstacles hit your path. Just like the motivational speaking cat on a certain mobile phone network’s latest advertising campaign, flip it and switch, all the negativity ditch it! I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences with you and I hope that I have made you smile along the way. Here’s to 100 more!!