I've just been locked in the small airless basement of a cafe with two guys in their early twenties sat at the next table. One of them was declaiming loudly and authoritatively, through an overwhelming aftershave, on photography. I don't normally listen in on other people's conversations, but this one was almost shouted in an otherwise quiet room with just the three of us in it. He explained how to 'do' photography. I swear these were pretty much his exact words, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down this pearl just after he said it:
"The thing about photography is, it's actually very easy. There are just a couple of rules you need to know. I studied photography you know. There is that one in three thing, and well, another rule or two... My Mum bought me several lessons so I know what I'm talking about. I'm really good at it, you know. After that, you can get great photos, the rest of it is just a matter of refining it a bit."
Somehow I managed to avoid the overwhelming temptation to break away from my coffee and insert my views into their conversation (or for that matter, insert my tripod somewhere else). Apparently, to do really good photography, what you really need is an SLR, which, he reckoned, cost £500. So when he managed to get that sum together he would be able to move away from using his compact and his photography would become even more genius. He had a mate who had a Canon, and that took absolutely wonderful pictures.
I really wanted to listen to the rest to see what other gems I could glean, but unfortunately was forced to move upstairs for some fresh air. At least there's a wifi connection upstairs, so I can post this while it's fresh!
Of course, mostly I hated his idea that you can get good photography by applying simplistic rules. But he added salt to the wound - I have a personal allergy to the so-called 'Rule of Thirds'. People claim to apply it where any element is not in the centre and not right at the edge of the frame. It's pretty tricky to avoid that without getting the subject right out of the frame altogether. And anyway, many of the best pictures have the subject either bang in the centre and not at the edge, so the whole thing is a bit of nonsense. It has its use as a way of getting beginners to try to experiment with moving the subject round the frame a bit, but that's about it.
While I don't believe in the Rule of Thirds, I also don't believe in trying to avoid it - because as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't exist. So, just to make Mr. Old Spice happy, here is a rule of thirds afficionado's wet dream, from Coasting: