400 smiles a day
here's lookin' at you

First time here? Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative: Children smile 400 times a day, adults just a miserable 14. As I have yet to decide what I want to be when I grow up, my smileometer is pretty sky-high anyway, so with the aid of a common or garden digital camera, I will attempt to restore a proper balance and hopefully haul you back up (with a silken thread) towards those magical 400 smiles a day.

There are three sorts of photographs. There’s the Calendar Girl, photos that are the work of professionals blessed with talent, time and the kit to capture the perfect image – beautiful to look at, technically exquisite.

Next, the Girl Next Door, where the subject matter slowly takes precedence over its technical merits.

Finally, the Page Three Girl, where the reaction is “Gosh!” – or whatever it is you say when you are, um, gobsmacked. Here the subject matter is everything, its technical quality an irrelevance, as long as the image is recognisable – a fairly recent example being the first photograph we saw of Concorde on fire, just before it crashed. The somewhat grainy image was captured by a student, and unsurprisingly, made the front pages of every newspaper in the world...

It was overtaken a day or so later by a professionally taken, but equally dramatic snap, of Concorde leaving the runway trailing its destructive fire trail, indeed this is the image which reappears like a Phoenix when the incident needs to be revisited.

Anyway, now that I carry a camera with me on my regular walks along the wild side of the Towy Valley, and what with all this talk of big cats on the loose in rural Wales, I have hanging on my bedroom wall an empty picture frame which carries the caption “Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?”.

However, here’s a further classification. The You Are Awful But I Like You Girl (Dick Emery’s creation from yesteryear comes to mind). I don’t go out to take photographs, I just go walkies with my camera, the only bit of kit I carry, set to auto-pilot, with no accessories. Because I set off between daybreak and sunrise I’m usually the first human out and about, and as a consequence some exceedingly delightful things manifest themselves in front of me – but annoyingly I still miss most of them. Sadly nature will not “move a bit to the left, look toward the sunrise…”.

My photographs will never win prizes, so I can’t call myself a photographer; similarly, as I am neither famous nor a celebrity, my writing will never make me a columnist, so I can’t call myself a journalist. So a photojournalist is out. Tell you what though, there’s nothing stopping me calling myself a snappyscribbler. Yes, I can live with that.

Another thing: I suffer from Captionitis. As soon as I register a likely image the first thing that comes to mind is the caption, so I tend to end up with snaps that make me smile – and hopefully you’ll graduate towards my view of the world, and join me up there on the Smileometer.

I’ve probably been subliminally influenced by Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoons, where he puts human emotions, behaviour and words into the mouths of animals – there’s one big word that sum’s it all up, but I’m buggered if I can think of it, so I’ve deployed around a dozen small ones instead.

For better for worse, for richer for poorer, my photos are not digitally enhanced. What I see through the lens is what you see on screen, otherwise not only am I cheating you, but myself. When I write someone else’s words I acknowledge the author, or put them inside quotation marks. Sadly, manipulation of a photo cannot be placed inside inverted commas.

Perhaps I do myself a disservice when I say my photographs will never win prizes. When you walk my square mile, around sunrise, you can’t but help capture some seductive scenes. Indeed, the Western Mail does A Postcard from Wales on its Letters page, where readers are invited to send in their efforts. It offers “amachers” like me a stage, indeed I’ve had a few published – the very first being the local castle shown here, alongside.

Following publication of the second photo, also featured alongside, I was contacted for some prints. I had to rush to the loo for a wee just in case I wet my pants, so excited did I get. Forty quid! And yes, Gordon Brown, it will be included in this year’s tax return, but no VAT because my earnings snooze quietly in the shadow of the VAT limit.  So with a bit of luck and a tailwind, I’ll open up another tributary to sell some of my Girl Next Door photos. But I mustn’t get ahead of the game.

Finally, where a picture on the home page does not fully paint a thousand words, or it calls for a little what/when/where/etc, a few words will join up all the dots, occasionally several words...




























Dinefwr Castle

Newton House

(Under a Harvest Moon)