when life gives you lemons...
puff… pant… puff… pant…
‘im going to die here,’ i thought, here in Wadi Shams (dry creekbed) in the middle of Oman in the middle of October of 2018 in this hot, dusty cavern. they will find my body, in a half crouch position with my fifty ton backpack trying to get over yet another rocky hill. actually, the wadi wasnt that bad, if you count the hundreds of mountain climbing europeans who tumbled up and down the sometimes rocky, sometimes muddy, sometimes slippery, sometimes wet, path in flip-flops and bathing suits. i mean i had proper hiking boots and i was tripping all over the place. as i huffed and puffed through the two hour walk (one way) i kept reminding myself why i was here.
to take pictures.
to take great pictures.
to learn. from Stuart Franklin. Landscape photographer, Professor, 15 year National Geographic photographer, Time magazine photographer. Magnum Photographer. yes him of the Tank Man picture in Tiananmen Square in 1989. the one picture which to me, signifies more than any other, what it means to fight for democracy. i have it on my wall, a signed print from him.
when the opportunity came up to apply for his 4 day landscape photography workshop in Oman, i jumped at the chance. applied, with my heart in my hand with an essay which spoke eloquently, funnily and honestly of my discovery of photography, my failings and my triumphs. applied with a portfolio of my best work. applied with no thought of being selected. but I was. selected. along with 11 other wonderful photographers from around the globe. and so we gathered one thursday afternoon in oman to listen to, absorb from and just be, with this magnificent, humble photographer. this was no technical geekery camera workshop. in fact we barely discussed gear. we talked about photographs. the inside meeting the outside. the story to tell. the place to be
it is an experience which has shaped and will shape me as a photographer
back to the wadi: the rest of the group had hippity-hopped to the wadi pools*, a good 45 mins away at that point. i had stopped to take a well earned breather (from the last breather i had taken 10 mins prior). i was feeling rather disappointed in myself, because i couldnt keep up and resolved to add ‘must get fit!’ to my list of things to do in another lifetime. as one gaggle of tourists after another trooped past me, i took refuge on a rock near a pool and watched with frustrated eyes and a heavy heart.
then i heard shouts and braying
braying?! from the direction i had just come, climbing up the rocky path were three half-naked mountain urchins and a donkey. a white, stubborn as hell donkey being dragged by a rope to the pool in front of me. have you ever seen a dog being dragged to have a bath? this was like that. except it was much bigger and used to pulling.. and it did, in a desperate attempt to escape from a fate worse than death (*cue dramatic music). it was hilarious.
i had the best 15 mins after that watching these three boys trying to give the donkey a well needed bath with their many curses echoing off the high rocky walls of the wadi, surrounded by the green that grew in profusion around us. the sounds of the tourists faded away as i watched, laughed, took some pictures and throughly enjoyed myself. i was the only one in the group to see this whole farce of a comedy play out.
i was making lemonade
and learnt that life can throw you some pretty cool balls just when you think its letting you down
*i never made it to the pools - about 90% of the way, i gave up quite exhausted and dehydrated, found a quiet spot and took some lovely pictures of the wadi with the Mamiya. the group were (sadly) generally disappointed in the pools because it was so full of tourists they couldn’t get any decent shots and wished they had stayed with me ;)