Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Customer service, the kindness of strangers and getting out of your comfort zone

It has been a busy couple of weeks over that last while. I've spent the last 3 of 6 weekends in Glasgow since I returned from the holiday in the homeland.
That last taste of Canada in YVR
The first trip was a bit of a sending off party for a good friend whose taken a job over in Cambridge. It was also a chance to catch up with friends that I hadn't seen in quite a while.

As with most trips to weegie land there is food involved. Went to a funky vegetarian restaurant called The 78. I was still basking in the glory of rediscovering film photography so had brought my Pentax ESII with me as well as my DSLR so I could do some comparisons. Sadly once the dinner was done and it was prime time to haul out the camera the restaurant staff thought it would be a good thing to dim the lights. Also with the addition of a DJ things were going to get a bit loud so we decided to move venues.

The Uisge Beatha is a lovely pub in the west end of Glasgow known for it's 300+ single malt whisky shelf as well as it's kilted staff. The group managed to find a series of tables we could all squish around and the fun continued. With the group was a fellow blogger and photo geek. Anyone that knows me will understand that if I'm sharing a room with someone else with a camera then I tend to become a bit snap happy. To the point of being cheeky enough to ask complete strangers if I can take their photo.

The Professor and the Viking

Trip 2 to Glasgow was to visit my ex-flatmates parents that were in town for a visit and also celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Food is a central part of this holiday and although there was no turkey involved there was the attempt at a pumpkin pie. Except we didn't have a pumpkin.

Psuedo Pumpkin Pie

Judging by the laughter that followed, my comment of 'a gourd's a gourd's a gourd' was very funny. I wasn't trying to be funny but just highlight the fact that swapping a butternut squash for a pumpkin was a reasonable substitution. I mean I thought it was yummy.

Trip 3 is where the title of this post was derived. In Trip 2 I had brought my Zorki 4 camera with me.

Zorki 4 Camera

I'd purchased it off eBay for an insanely cheap winning bid but had not been able to get the thing to work because the shutter wouldn't press down. I'd downloaded an owners manual off the net and worked it through but no luck. Last time I was in Merchant City Camera's shop in Glasgow I'd mentioned to the guy behind the desk about my problem and he'd suggested I bring it in as it sounded like it was probably something relatively simple. So I did. Then returned 2 weeks later with it fixed and was then told that there was 'no charge'. How great is that! I then bought a roll of B&W film as I'd not yet run a roll through the camera.

I was also going to be doing a photo shoot of a friend that afternoon and needed a CF Card as I wasn't going to be using my camera. I already have a 1GB and a 2GB card at home so didn't want another. They did have just a small 256MB card so I said I would take that. Apparently the card wasn't on the price list because, well they don't stock them anymore because the new cameras these days with their increased number of pixels larger cards are more the norm. The young guy that was serving me looked to the older guy and said "well what should I ring it in as then?" To which the older guy looked at me and says "How does 5 quid sound?"

People, if you're wanting to purchase anything photography related, I highly recommend Merchant City Cameras. A great bunch of guys that have not forgotten what Customer Service means. Plus they're a nice group of guys and they know what their talking about.

Ok, next up - Kindness and Comfort

A friend of mine has written a book and had asked me if I would be interested in taking the portrait of the author to go with it. But of course! Keeping in mind that I'm not really known for taking people pictures, unless it happens to be of their shoes.

The Stance

As I was going to be in town I figured we could talk about what her ideas were for the shoot. Only to find out she was thinking we could do it that weekend. Of course this was the ONE time I didn't lug all my camera gear with me! Plan B was I did have my Lumix with me but somehow a point and shoot doesn't seem worthy enough for someones first book.

On a whim late at night I decided to post a request on 2 of the Glasgow Flickr groups that I used to post too when I still lived in the city asking if anyone out there had a Nikon D70 DSLR with a 50mm lens. Its what I would have used had I brought my gear with me, and if I'm going to borrow a camera I'd like to be familiar with how it works. But I'd also just posted a general cry for help on Facebook and also sent a text to a friend in town that has a nice Canon.

Much to my surprise I had not one but 3 complete strangers contact me wanting to help out. One of which had the camera and the lens I was looking for. Hurrah!!! So the planned photo shoot went ahead as planned and the guy that loaned me the camera sat and waited for me with a nice cup of hot chocolate compliments of me.

I easily filled up my wee 256mb CF card while trying to figure out the best lighting in the cafe, camera settings, composition and trying to put the subject at ease. Once I got everything just right, the card was full and I had to delete a bunch to make room for the good shots. In the end I think I got around 3 shots that are really good and that we are both happy with.

That night as I took the train back home to Edinburgh I reflected on the process of doing that portrait shoot. My first really, the wedding I shot back in March was a very different process. So slowly I'm getting out of my comfort zone of sneakers and inanimate objects

and trying my hand at doing things most people think of when they think of photographer.

Still just not sure I want to hang a sign and call myself a real photographer just yet. I've got so much more to learn.


Laurel said...

Lovely, Chris, just lovely.

D J E and M Huber said...

Nice shots. Nice post, too. I'm trying to get my hands on a film camera as well. I grabbed my parents' old Minolta XG-M over the summer, but it turned out that the film advance was kaput. Too bad. So, my next try is going to be my bro-in-law's Canon something-or-another. Should be fun.

That Russian unit that you have looks pretty neat, and you're using it to great effect.

DaviMack said...

You haven't looked at enough "professional" baby pictures yet. Do. It's enlightening, and possibly motivating. :)