Our Allotted Time / by Graham Dew

This weekend brought two together two things that we have not seen for some time: warmth and sunshine. This Sunday morning I found myself with a spare hour and a half free between dropping off and picking up my son at hockey training.

So with the prospect of having some quality time taking pictures I made the classic mistake. I got into the car to go to find somewhere to photograph. I don’t know how often I have done this. The trouble with getting in the car is that instead of taking time out to walk, look and photograph, I end up driving around, looking for something interesting and looking for somewhere to park. This never works. Most of my images are usually of details shot near-to. You can’t see these sort of things close up whilst driving. In fact, you can’t see much at all other than the road and other traffic when you’re driving.

I ended up stopping in the car park of a local beauty spot, a place famed for its big open skies and wide vistas of huge fields. I’ve been here many times before to take pictures, usually in evening light and often when the fields are ripe and abundant. At this time of year, there’s not much in the way of close details to be seen – most of the fields are currently under the plough and the hawthorn is not yet out. There’s not that much to hold one’s interest or make a compelling image. So if there are pictures to be had, they do not present themselves very often, or have been seen at other times. I spent three quarters of an hour on a short walk before abandoning the location and headed back to hang around at the sports ground and wait for my son.

One way I prepare to make my precious spare time more effective is to prepare a ‘projects’  file where I note down different projects that I want to photograph, with notes on different subjects, locations, techniques and equipment that I might need. I often use this, and it helps me to have a clear goal so I can quickly channel my thoughts and preparations when going out to take pictures. But it’s been a while since I last looked at this file, and had forgotten what a useful aide memoire it can be.

On the way back I remembered that I had promised myself to go and visit local allotments, and I made detour to a rather fine one just half a mile from the sports ground. Allotments are such wonderful places. I love the enterprise that goes on in these places, the way that people will tend to their plots to grow the most wonderful vegetables and fruit, construct wonderful frames and nets to protect and support their produce. I like the mix of human ingenuity and construction, working in conjunction with the natural cycle. They are places where people have invested a lot of their time, energy and love into their plots. Places that have a purpose, places that interesting to look at, places that are visibly rich.

I quickly found all sorts of things to photograph, an almost dizzying richness of subjects jam packed together. And before I knew, I had run out of time. But next time I have an hour or so to spare, there will be one place I know that I can fall back on, if I’m short on ideas or I can't find my projects file.