Clackers: The master of dad jokes, beginner tips and Pentax cameras
On his life in photography, Australia, nicknames, and giving back
By cjfeola in Pentaxian Profiles on Sep 4, 2023
A blind man sits down at the bar and figures he'll break the ice with the bartender by asking "Wanna hear a blonde joke?" In a hushed voice, a man beside him says, before you tell that joke, buddy, I think it is only fair, given that you are blind, that you should know our bartender is blonde, our bouncer is blonde, I'm a 6'4" black belt, the man sitting on the other side of me is 6'2, 250 lbs, and a rugby player. The guy sitting next to you is pushing 300, 6'6, and he's a wrestler. We're ALL blonde. So you think about it mister, do you really wanna tell that joke?" The blind man sat for a second, thinking over the odds and then replied "No, not if I have to explain it five times."
A dad joke! On Pentax Forums! It must be Clackers, our 2023 Otis Memorial Pentaxian! Except this is no Beginner Tip; Clackers has written so many beginner tips articles, and they have proven so popular that we decided we needed to interview him and share just what makes Clackers clack!
Chris Feola for Pentax Forums: Why so many dad jokes?
Clackers: They call it 'infotainment' these days, don't they? I work in IT, but was a high school physics, chemistry and maths teacher for twelve years. Teachers are trained now that you can't impart information to someone not paying attention. The best way to learn something is to do it, and the worst way to copy something down from a whiteboard into an exercise book. But on an internet forum, the options are limited. What can be done? One way is to bait and switch. People can come to the post for a few laughs, but stay for the lesson. The stolen gags at the start of each article are quickies generally in the style of Steven Wright or Rodney Dangerfield - a bit surreal, a bit self-deprecating. The story at the end is kind of out of place in the modern world, a longer joke. An anachronism, because observational humor is what today's comics do. I tend to think here of UK comedians from decades past like Dave Allen and Ronnie Corbett. They told them from a chair, so they were maybe sit-downs rather than standups.
Pentax Forums: What do you say to rumors that you have a shed outback filled with dads forced to write jokes for cheap beer and bratwurst?
Clackers: Where did you hear that? It was from Barry, right? He escaped. Dug a tunnel from his cell into the garden next door.
I immediately cut the rations to the remaining writers as collective punishment.
I guess I'm not going to win Boss of the Year, am I?
Pentax Forums: How'd you get started in photography?
Clackers: Well, I'm a Generation Xer - that probably makes me an infant by PF standards - and in the 70s, my high school had a storeroom they converted into a darkroom. That's where I got my first doses of red light and lungfuls of carcinogens. I shot some rolls using my father's Olympus. But analogue photography wasn't the cheapest hobby for a teenager, so I went on to do other things instead for many years. In my forties, I started doing serious bicycle touring, hiking and kayaking - obviously a midlife crisis - and returned to photography as a way of documenting my weekends. Brand choice was a blank canvas, and I chose a Pentax K-x for all its features at its price point. Had the DA 18-55 as well, classic combo. I still have both.
Pentax Forums: Tell us about your photography. What do you enjoy? What are you working on now?
Clackers: I love it all, Chris. Landscapes, to portraits, to events, to sports and action. Once you pick up experience and knowledge in one genre, you end up applying it to the others and giving them an adrenaline shot. For instance, my wildlife shots are heavily influenced by my portraiture, and my scenes of outdoor activity are often actually landscapes with human figures in them, as props. Covid meant a lot of my favorite subjects - organized sports and music gigs - were suspended, and I stopped shooting them altogether. I'm an active grandparent now, which shortens the hours in a week for other leisure activities - mainly taking days to recover from what overactive grandkids do to me when minding them - but I'd like to get back in the saddle for sure.
Pentax Forums: What's your favorite photo that you've taken?
Clackers: I did like this one I submitted for the 2022 Pentaxians Yearbook, a publication that unfortunately got canceled earlier this year. Overwhelmingly, professional and amateur models are female, that's who I shoot most, so I thought to not waste the chance to make an interesting picture out of this guy, who's got guns, he's ripped. I didn't want it to be just a beefcake shot, I might've settled for that five years ago, but I'm not the same photographer. As I've said, that's as it should be. There's more ambition.
Pentax Forums: What's your favorite photo/photographer other than yourself? Who are your influences?
Clackers: So many, Chris! For concept photography, Man Ray, David LaChappelle are a couple. For landscapes, Michael Kenna, Peter Lik, Bernhard Edmaier amongst others. For portraits, Mark Seliger, Yusuf Karsh. For action, Chase Jarvis, Ryu Voekel et al. For street, Fan Ho, Elliot Erwitt. Plus the rest. I could do a series on them, I'm a bit of a hopeless nerd on photography history, I can't get enough of it. And we have a lot of terrific photographers right here at Pentax Forums who I include in my occasional post series, 'Meet Your Fellow Pentaxian'. Special shoutout to Luxembourg's Fs999 (Frederic), who doesn't seem to have the profile of superstars like Rondec, Ken Goh and others but never ceases to amaze me with his output, both in quantity and quality.
Pentax Forums: Why do you write Clackers' beginners tips?
Clackers: I love hearing and reading discussions between experts in their fields, Chris, so I think it's a privilege on Pentax Forums to have members who know so much about photography and Pentax products in particular. It's sure helped me over the journey. But it must be overwhelming for someone relatively new to the hobby. Where's the content for them? I love debates on RAW file developers and chromatic aberration and whether the M series of lenses compromised the K and Takumar designs, but not everyone does. I also read some people wondering why there was so much discussion of gear on the forum, and not as much on shooting technique, or dare I say it - the *art* of what we do. I think you can take a great picture with an old K-10 and kit zoom. So I thought, we can do something for beginners on a regular basis. And others can pick up things up too. I mean, all of us, we never stop learning, right?
I love music, and when Randy Rhoads, the genius who played guitar for Ozzy Osbourne on his iconic first albums, was on tour he'd find himself in small cities all over the States, and Enquire who was a local guitar instructor, to book an impromptu lesson with them. Imagine being a teenager who worked at Walmart, as a side hustle you did some teaching, and then Randy - some held him in higher regard than his contemporary Eddie Van Halen - walks into your parents' basement! Rhoads thought if you spent enough time with anyone, you could learn something, no matter how small, and that you only get better by reaching outside your current skillset, experiences and way of doing things. Each tip gets tested by posting to the Pentaxians Facebook group at the start of a week, I make any changes needed and put it up here on Fridays. Great moderator volunteers - PJV and Sandy Hancock - have updated the archive listing. Unsung heroes, again!
Pentax Forums: What's your favorite tip?
Clackers: So I think, 'Shoot with photographers better than us'. It can be a class, a clinic, a meetup, a walkaround. But not an online course. Too passive. We think we can be 'self taught', but of course, we don't know what we don't know. Our own ego has to be overcome to progress, IMHO. I reckon watch and copy everything these better guys and gals do - stand in the same place with the same settings - and don't stop until our photos look similar, nearly as good as theirs. And keep practicing in the weeks after the event is over until we've nailed it. There's no problem at the end of the day with 'individuality'. Once we've acquired the methods, angles and means of others, sure they'll continue as an influence - after all, I think we're a collection of everything we've ever been exposed to - but we'll do it our own way. Put five photographers into the same market area for one hour, they'll all come back with different pictures, that's unavoidable, they have five different personalities. So, I think the tip is really to spend our discretionary income on experience instead of gadgets. Go on shoots, guided tours, etc, rather than on a new camera or lens. If we shoot the same way with new gear, if we take the same damned picture of a lilac with a DFA*50 as we did with the FA50, we haven't improved our photography, we've wasted the decade. IMO, it shouldn't be Groundhog Day, we should be getting more interesting.
Pentax Forums: What's your favorite thing you've written?
Clackers: I think I like Number 83, Chris! The tips started off a bit different in tone, and I tried to find and make humour a bit relevant to each topic, but I soon had to discard that as too time consuming. It's a bit of a treadmill, churning these out every Friday while I have a job, a family, a life. So, 83 was a pretend interview with forum member Mossy Rocks, which I based with his permission on one of his old posts here about the fundamentals of astrophotography. He was a good sport about it all, and I hope to repeat the exercise with others. I do like collaboration. While trying to be distinctive in what I do, I'm definitely not a non-conformist, I like team sports, and throughout my life I've been a team player.
Pentax Forums: What's next for clackers?
Clackers: Well, I've been doing these things weekly for nearly two years now, Chris, and that's not sustainable. Maybe instead of stopping them altogether I'll move to monthly. That'll keep it fun for me, less of a grind. I think professional photography could be like that, too. I've done a couple of paid jobs, but spoken to wedding and product pros so worn down by the repetitive nature of what they do and by their clients' conflicting demands that they stop taking pictures recreationally. The camera stays at home when they leave the house. What a horrible way to end up, I think, being unable to stand to do something you once loved. A chef who orders Uber Eats instead of cooking a home meal? I get that.
Pentax Forums: Bonus question: what's the origin of the name "clackers?"
Clackers: Yeah, that's my real-life sporting nickname. It's the duty of team mates to give you a moniker, you don't really get a say in it. If you suggest something to them, they gotta ignore it, that's the rule! In one sense, it's a corruption of Clark, my surname. But there's also a dig at me, because a 'clacker' is Aussie slang in itself, maybe from the biological term 'cloaca', the rear end of a bird. :)
Pentax Forums: Thanks! Hope that's not too many questions.
Clackers: Been a pleasure, Chris, and we should of course end with an ancient gag.
Pentax Forums: Sure! Here you go. Old guy retires. He’s financially secure, has no family or responsibilities, so he drops cash on the car he’s always wanted: a drop-top Corvette. He pulls out of the dealership with the top down, hits the open road, and puts the pedal down. He’s well into triple digits when a state trooper starts chasing him, siren wailing. The old guy pulls over and bursts into tears. Trooper walks up and asks what’s going on. “I retired today. On my first day of work decades ago a state trooper pulled me over and stole my wife.” The trooper is befuddled by this. “So why were you speeding today?” “I thought you were bringing her back!”
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