April, 2015 Codmanton, Northern England
Shadows spoiling the sunshine
‘What on God’s earth am I going to do, Craig?’ she asked, kneeling to take a photo. A swan was on its nest with its mate, among reeds on the far side of the canal. Every now and then it stretched its long neck to select another piece of reed to add to the nest.
‘Well, for a start, stop playing with that fucking thing,’ Craig responded, charming as ever.
The “fucking thing” in question was Melissa’s pride and joy – a second-hand Mamiya Pro SD medium format film camera. It had accompanied her through her photography degree course. She wasn’t going to tell Craig just now – but if it came to a choice between him and the camera, then goodbye Craig.
‘I’m not playing, mate, I’m practicing and building my CV,’ she answered.
‘Don’t be daft, Mel’ he argued, ‘Nobody uses antiques like that to take photos – they have these things called smartphones with amazing cameras.’
‘You want to be a languages teacher, Craig,’ she came back on him instantly, ‘Who needs to learn languages when they can use translation apps on those same smartphones?’
He wanted the last word though – he always did, ‘Pressing a button on a camera isn’t the same thing as using fluent face to face conversation.’
The April afternoon light, subdued for the moment behind thin, high cloud, meant that the beautiful bird, perfectly reflected along with the reeds would provide a great shot for her postgraduate portfolio. She sat back down beside Craig – though she resented his attitude..
He and Melissa – whom everyone knew as Mel – were looking across the canal, watching the birds. They sat on bin bags, though the ground was quite dry now after several successive dry days following Easter. Their arms were wrapped around their knees, which were pulled up in front of them. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful stretch of water. Created by armies of labourers in the nineteenth century, to enable cargoes of coal and textiles to be ferried profitably between sources and users, it had been allowed to fall into neglect. Melissa and Craig, however, weren’t discussing economic history so much as their personal current economic status.
You wouldn’t put them together at first glance – or perhaps even a second glance. Melissa Harrington, mid-twenties and unemployed was beautiful by any standards. Five-foot ten, long blonde hair, blue-eyed, slim and long-legged she could probably have had her pick of single young men in the town. She could probably have had her pick almost anywhere – even from married men.
Craig Whittaker was of a similar height and build and while his long straggly hair would not have looked out of place on a rock star – he was not a rock star. He was also unemployed but with his stubble, narrow face and thin lips he often looked sullen. He wasn’t ugly and he wasn’t conventionally handsome – you’d just have wondered, superficially perhaps, what a girl like that would have seen in him.
They’d started going out together a couple of years before, after a party, and still saw each other regularly, but the relationship had never moved on to anything particularly romantic or permanent. The way things were playing out, they were never likely to do so.
I’ve tried to make today’s photo fit the setting of the story for a change. This is a shot that I took in March of this year while I was dog-walking along a local canal. I was using my Pentax 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm full-frame prime lens. I don’t pretend to be a pro photographer as I’ve imagined Melissa to be.
The shutter speed was 1/200 secs @ f/13 and ISO 3200.