If I'd required further convincing, the need became starkly evident a fortnight ago when I visited the Collingwood Housing Estate to interview the inspiring resident and Yarra Council Sustainability Award winner Alby Clark. Attempting to take photos and talk to Alby at the same time, I got into such a tangle that I dropped my notebook into the garden. He ended up having to retrieve it, and carry the camera - so much for my professional image!
Fortunately, only days later, my friend, Ponch Hawkes, who over the years has often saved my bacon, stepped in. Ponch, who is a renowned photographer, suggested I attend a talk by Alan Attwood, editor of The Big Issue
and a keen photographer, one Saturday morning at the New North Gallery in Fairfield.
The audience was packed with photographers keen to make themselves more marketable by learning how to write words to accompany their pictures. I, of course, was coming from the opposite direction, wanting to learn how to take half-decent photos to enhance my articles.
Reflecting on his 30 year career, Alan said that when he started out as a journalist, he was always accompanied on assignments by a photographer. He felt it could almost have turned into an industrial issue had he attempted to take a photo himself. But these days, with budgetary cuts all around - even Obama's travelling media roadshow is a shadow of its former self - if journalists want photos, they frequently have to take them themselves. Everybody is multi-tasking. In fact one person in the audience, currently studying photojournalism, said that today's students are required to be equally adept at writing, photography and videoing.
Although I can never imagine developing proficiency as a video journalist, I felt inspired by the seminar to improve my photography skills. I was also grateful for a simple tip of Alan's. He has found that it works best to clearly divide up the time spent with a subject. First do the interview and then take the photos - if only I had known that when I visited Alby.
I have been writing steadily over the last little while. Ponch kindly took some wonderful photos to accompany my article 'High Density Honey', which appeared in the Spring edition of Earth Garden magazine. (I wish I had the technological know-how to reproduce them here, but perhaps one day...) The article featured a young couple, Ross Waller and Nicola Patron, who are producing their own honey and keeping quails in inner-city Melbourne.
Luckily, in that I had taken no suitable photos while in Spain, another recently-published article 'Lapsed and Loving it', about falling under the spell of Spanish Catholicism, that appeared in the Travel section of The Australian a fortnight ago, didn't require them.
And at the top of this post I have included a picture I took of Alby that accompanies the article 'Flourishing Against the Odds' recently submitted to Earth Garden magazine.
But from now on for me, it's practise, practise, practise.