a peek inside the fishbowl

29 Apr, 2016

Overcoming fear

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Publishing/writing/career stuff

I’ve been taking photos for a long time but over the past decade or so I’ve been doing it in a work capacity. Some of you Fishies will remember the few years I worked as a family portrait photographer. I came to a crossroads because I had to decide whether I wanted to write or dedicate more hours to photography. I opted out of growing the photography side of things, but still do a bit of it. I am lucky to have found a good balance in that respect.

I don’t take photos for every issue of the newspaper, just like I don’t have articles in every issue. Every once in awhile I find myself taking photos for a story we’re running in the paper. This can happen for several reasons: (1) I’m the person writing the story and I’m already there (2) it’s a story I’m interested in personally (3) there is no photographer available or (4) I’m going to be over budget.

Here I am, taking photos for a story we ran recently about the new festival in Westboro, called Westboro FUSE.

Someone shot the shooter

I used to be a shy photographer. Waves of anxiety would rise to the surface and get the better of me. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often anymore. The anxiety faded over time, which was a relief because I was convinced my nerves would be frayed forever. Who wants a lifetime of twitchy eye and heartburn? Hint: Not me.

What happened – other than the fact that I was taking hundreds of photos and learning from my mistakes – was that I adopted a work persona. I basically pretended I was someone else when I needed a bit of extra courage. I knew Andrea the Regular Person had moments of paralyzing shyness, but Andrea the Photographer did not. Andrea the Photographer kicks ass and does whatever she needs to do in order to get the shot. That might mean asking someone to do something unusual like stepping up on something or hugging a tree, touching people (“pardon me while I fix that stray hair”), sitting in the front row like a keener, or just getting up in front of a lot of people. Andrea the Photographer is bold! What also helps is having the name of a publication that she can whip out when she needs to: “Oh sorry, am I in your way? I’m just taking photos for…”) This helps convince her subjects that she’s not a crazy person.

She’s not rude, but she is assertive and smart. She knows that if she doesn’t nail the photo now, she’ll regret it later. Part of this is the courage to accept that she doesn’t know everything about everything and she doesn’t have to imply that she does. She’s not afraid to ask someone to wait a minute so she can double-check her camera settings. She also knows that people are happy to help her if she needs it and that it’s ok to ask. So what if she looks like a dummy for a second? She doesn’t care!

It’s quite liberating. You should try it.

3 Responses to "Overcoming fear"

1 | Lynn

May 1st, 2016 at 11:05 pm


Fabulous. I love Andrea The Photographer.

2 | andrea tomkins

May 2nd, 2016 at 9:32 am


Thank you Lynn! I like her too. :)

3 | binki

May 3rd, 2016 at 12:33 pm


It’s funny the way you describe yourself as anxious, with “paralyzing fear”.
I was at an event a year ago where you were interviewing some folks. You had in past blogs, described yourself as an introvert/shy. I was amazed at how extroverted, friendly, fun, clever, sharp you were. And tall! omg!
Anyway…just goes to show. Introverts often just dig in and get it done. And done well.

Well done Andrea. You inspired an introvert who also gets it done, even if it sometimes takes an extra big kick to that wall of anxiety. ;-)

comment form:


Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Jennifer Jilks: I don't have a bucket list. I sorta live day to day!
  • Aj: Each peach, Everybody puts two feet in, king counter will say the following rhyme as they count around the circle: "Each peach pear plum out goes
  • Jenn Jilks: That is really exciting! Break a leg!
  • fun88: I was excited to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also
  • Gretchen Humphrey: I had a beautiful bee& birdbath filled with a solar fountain and dozens of antique marbles that were suddenly disappearing. At first I thought my
  • Jinjer: I am sobbing reading this post. And you're right, companion is not enough. Little furry treasured gifts that they are. Thanks for sharing cutie-pi
  • Karen: Dear Andrea, Mark and your daughters I am so very sad for your family xxx Piper was/is my favourite Instagram post. You shared with us so intimately

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

Still calling it Twitter