Cold Water Mornings: a photo from the first day, Jan 1st 2020

New Years Day 2020, Serpentine Swimmers, a mug of tea and some cake.

One reason to start a photography project is to improve your photography. So it’s a little ironic that on the first day with the first roll of film I should take one of the best photos. It’s a typical scene (from the pre covid era), after the New Years day races with a warm hat, a warm drink and sharing homemade cake.

I’ll agree the photo itself is nothing fancy but it follows through on my intention to connect the viewer as closely as possible with the feeling of being there. The energy of the subject – I’ll call him Ian because that’s his name – is mirrored in the background action. Or more specifically the angle of Ian’s arm rising up in frame is mirrored by the angular posture of the animated people in the background. As the background is slightly out of focus I feel it contributes to the image but doesn’t distract. So without any camera tricks the photo has movement and energy.

And yes, it’s a lucky strike. But as the french ph0tographer Alain Kaiser explained to me long ago whilst on assignment in Western Sahara: “…to be unlucky is a professional mistake”. It was a profound statement I’ve carried with me ever since. It means we work hard to create the opportunity for luck to happen.

Another element that brings me joy is that its recognisably the Serpentine, with the bridge and the pontoon in the distant background. This for me is the icing on the cake. I’ve some good photos without this quality and while I still like them they could’ve been taken anywhere.

On a more critical note the swan just breaking out of the frame on the lower right is a minor irritation and the blank water to the right of frame is a bit – blank.

As for the swans, writing today a year after the photo was taken, I can say the swans and the geese have never co-operated and they’ve given me nothing but trouble. One even shat on me. But I do desperately desire a good geese photo and this is one reason I’m running the project on for another year. It’s not that you can’t take a good photo of the swans or geese here, as several club members have proven by posting some exceptional images taken on their phones and go-pros. So wish me luck with that.

So for this photo, even with the not so great elements, I’m still really happy with it – not a masterpiece but good by my standards.

Perhaps it’s a little dangerous to talk of my own photographs in this way as what I think about the image might not resonate with everyone or even anyone. But that’s why I’m here …so feel free to disagree and comment as you wish.