Nearly 50 years of photographing Scottish Country Dancing
It wasn’t until I inherited thousands of photos and slides from my mother Tess Hyde after she died in 2018 that I fully realised where my love of photography came from.
In this treasure trove of photos, I discovered my mother had kept her own mother’s collection of dozens of photos of her family from the late 1890s onward. The first photo my grandmother had of my mother was taken in 1924 when she was just three weeks old.
Mum had told me she’d been given a Brownie box camera when she was in her early twenties. That started a lifetime of recording family life and activities including birthdays, weddings and travels.
My father Jim Hyde was a keen photographer as well, capturing records of farming life in the 1930s on the family farm in Horahora, near Cambridge. Dad kept a diary in 1937 when he was aged 16, detailing life on the farm and his first year of paid farming work for a neighbour. His diary entry for 22 February says, “Mr Scarlett took me to town. I bought a camera for 9/3.” (9 shillings & 3 pence; around NZ$0.92).
In 1962 mum finally got a high quality camera which could take colour photos; a Zeiss purchased duty-free by her mother and step-father when they went to the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. Right through the 1960s and early 1970s she took slides as they were cheaper to develop than colour film. In the late 1970s she changed to colour film when she and my father toured Britain and Europe.
An early start to my photography journey
Mum passed her Brownie on to me in 1962 and that started me off on my photography journey, initially taking photos of our family activities.
The Brownie was old by then and didn’t produce great shots so I was thrilled to get a new camera for Christmas in 1962 (I can’t remember what type it was).
From that time on, I invariably had a camera around my neck at family celebrations and holidays.
Near the end of the 1960s, I got a Kodak Instamatic, a very popular camera with ‘magic flash cubes’ that clicked on to the top of the camera.
Early photos of dancing
By the mid-1970s I’d moved on to a Pentax Spotmatic, a 35mm single-lens reflex camera which I used for years.
My friend Christine (who now lives and dances in Rockingham south of Perth) introduced me to Scottish Country Dancing in Hamilton in 1974. I was hooked from the first evening. My sister Karen started dancing in Hamilton at much the same time.
I soon began taking photos of dancers and dancing. However, the flash on my Pentax Spotmatic wasn’t strong enough to take good photos of people actually dancing in the low-light conditions of many halls. So I generally stuck to photos of groups, particularly when dressed up for special occasions such as theme nights or ceilidhs.
Moving to Wellington
I moved to Wellington from Hamilton in 1983, initially taking up dancing at Lower Hutt Club before moving on to Ngaio and then Johnsonville. Some of the halls we danced at did have good lighting. Even with a limited flash, at times I managed to get reasonable photos of dancers taking to the floor.
Wellington Region Events in the 1990s Take a look at the fun and friendship of some of the Region’s events through the 1990s (including the names of all the tutors in the photo below).
I spent 2003-2004 in Tanzania with Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA); an amazing opportunity for wonderful wildlife and landscape photos. In 2004, I got my first digital camera, a Lumix DMC-FX1 which had a small zoom lens; great for capturing wild animals but not so good for photographing birds (which I was increasingly passionate about.) The size of the images was just 3 megapixels, compared to the 12 megapixel photos available on many mobile phones nowadays!
Although there wasn’t any Scottish Country Dancing available in Tanzania, I still had the opportunity to dance occasionally. Here I am dancing with Maasai women at a friend’s family celebration. I handed my camera to the driver who took us out to my friend’s home in the grasslands in northern Tanzania. He enjoyed taking some great shots!
A digital single-lens-reflex camera: A boon for better photographs
My photography of both dancing and birds took off when I got my first digital single-lens camera in 2008; a Panasonic Lumix with a small zoom lens. Being able to take clearer and close-up photos was a revelation.
As this camera produced higher-quality images of dancing, I recorded more and more events for Johnsonville Club along with other celebrations throughout the RSCDS Wellington Region.
Welcoming in the New Year with toe-tapping music and fine dancing at a Hogmanay is a special celebration for Scottish Country Dancers.
See other Memories of celebrating Hogmanay in Wellington from 2006-2018 including more from the 2008 and 2010 celebrations above.
New Dancers’ Celebrations
New Dancers’ Celebrations welcome new dancers to the wider Scottish Country Dancing community, with experienced dancers attending in support.
In 2013, Johnsonville Club hosted this event at the Newlands Centennial Hall which was decorated with the newly produced club bunting along the walls.
Tributes to those who have contributed to Scottish Country Dancing in Wellington
The archive of photos Johnsonville photographers have produced over the years provides a visual history of those who have made major contributions to dancing in the Region or who are no longer with us.
Click the links below to see more about some of these dancers and musicians:
2022 Kelburn’s Farewell Kelburn Club held its final dance on 19 June, closing after more than sixty years. John Gregory was presented with a Tribute from the Region to mark his enormous contribution to dancing.
2019 Tribute to Maureen Robson A special Region dance on 7 December paid tribute to Maureen who retired after teaching Tawa Club for 38 years.
2018 Tribute to Peter Elmes On 24 November, a Region tribute dance marked Peter’s retirement from playing his beloved button accordion for Scottish Country Dancing.
2017 A Tribute to Betty Redfearn Betty was tutor at Kelburn for 46 years until her retirement in 2015.
The joy of special Scottish Country Dancing occasions
I got my current camera, a Nikon D7200, together with a great zoom lens in 2015. With this camera I can get wonderful shots of birds…as well as continuing to photograph special dancing events in the Region.
2021 Wellington Region 60th Anniversary Ball A fine dinner and dance to commemorate 60 years of the Wellington District Branch of the New Zealand Scottish Country Dance Society.
2021 Ngaio 50th Anniversary As a member of Ngaio Club from 1990-1992, I was thrilled the club asked me (along with John Patterson) to take photos at this celebration, another evening filled with the joy of fun and friendship.
2018 NZ Branch 50th Anniversary Ball at Government House With swirling kilts and fabulous colours of the ballgowns, this evening proved a grand celebration with a welcome from The Governor General, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy.
I also shared an article about a photographer’s view of the Branch 50th Ball—how the smiles of the dancers, their laughter and the fun had by all made photographing the event an enjoyable assignment.
2016 Johnsonville Club 50 Golden Years Celebration A significant occasion for our club.
2014 Wellington Region 1920s Ball An elegant evening of dancing in a beautifully decorated ballroom to celebrate the decade in which the RSCDS was formed.
To make sure I occasionally get a photo of me dancing, I sometimes hand my camera over to someone on the side-line, asking them to get some shots, like the one below.
2012 Wellington Region Diamond Jubilee Ball This Ball at Government House celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll. The Governor General Lt. Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine welcomed us and joined in some of the dancing. The smiles of the dancers, their laughter and the fun had by all made photographing the event an enjoyable activity.
Continuing to make memories…
I’m still working hard to get good photos of birds. Although dancers move around, I’m more likely to anticipate where they’re going than for birds which flit around or simply fly off!
There’s nothing quite like photographing the joy of Scottish Country Dancing; attempting to catch the moment dancers smile to their partner or across the set, and covering well. As shown in my photo on the cover of the New Zealand Scottish Country Dancer 2022, Volume 69.
My plan is to continue recording dancing celebrations and tributes, so we can easily reflect on the fun we’ve had and the friendships made.
30 August 2022