There’s nothing like a long-distance walk to clear the mind. And a few years ago I discovered the wonder of getting my main bag transported from night stop to night stop so I didn’t have to shlep it. So when I suggested to Mrs Barker that this year we should walk St Cuthbert’s Way – a 70-mile hike from Melrose in Scotland to Lindisfarne - she readily agreed since she is not one for carrying any more than is absolutely necessary.
I had quite separately been coming to the conclusion that I needed to buy a decent camera bag and the prospect of this walk spurred me on. The non-photo-geek might say - WHAT?! You need a special bag – just to carry a camera? Hello??
In truth you don’t. You can just throw your camera into any bag. It will get battered though and you can spend a long time rummaging through everything else in the bag trying to find it. For a long time I did use a standard rucksack into which I put a camera bag insert – a kind of padded rectangular thing with Velcro dividers which cost me about £10. I still got fed up after a few years because it was always at the bottom of the bag and it took forever to get the camera out.
When I investigated the market I was surprised to find that there is an infinite number of camera bags available – truly hundreds of makes and models. If you look hard enough you can even pay over a thousand pounds for one. They are all essentially the same, some bigger and some smaller. The smaller ones are basically just, well, bags; and the bigger ones usually have a separate entrance for your camera kit. It is the job of marketing departments to persuade you that they are all different and theirs is best. What happens to all those billions of bags which are never bought? Presumably they end up in some sort of camera bag graveyard eternally condemned to hang empty from the shoulder of an uncaring Destiny.
You can get the odd bargain on ebay or gumtree or wherever but you can also get a minger. It is worth trying other options and for photography there are secondhand kit sites like Ffordes Photographic to check. I got a decent one there for £70 (less than half the new price) and it really is in as new condition.
Taking the beautiful Hasselblad in the bag may have been a mistake. It was partly for the sheer thrill of having it with me but it’s a thrill which weighs nearly 4lbs and at the end of a 15+ mile day up hill and down dale that is a significant weight. On two days it was raining so heavily that I hardly dared get it out of the bag.
My plan was to shoot a tree a day. I’ve always found trees to be a difficult photographic subject so I thought it would be a good discipline. I shot one roll of film in the end – twelve frames – which in my opinion is quite enough for a six day holiday. There are six tree shots on it but I wouldn’t be able to remember what the other ones were without looking at the notes I took. This is the excitement of film photography: it is a longer process which seems to work partly at a subconscious level. By the time you have developed and scanned/printed your film the images are an amalgam of memory, imagination and intention. With digital there is an immediacy which has a very different effect.
Anyway. Trees and fields are all well and good but I’m a fan of a good powerline too. Like this.