8 September 2009

UK's Best Photographer 2009

The competition is moving on. Having survived the test, the last 25 were invited to Buxton to meet the landscape challenge. We were given a choice of 3 venues, a map and four hours to come up with three good un's. What an exciting way to start ... After a very wet night, it dawned dry but grey but as time went on, began to clear promisingly. We rendezvoused in a village car park and were eventually let loose on Derbyshire. What a day!!! The sky quickly settled to fluffy clouds and it was warm and breezy. I headed to Chrome Hill along with about 10 others but apart from the first half hour, hardly saw any of them for the rest of the day. That's unnerving because some of them are landscape aficianados and I wondered if my choice to climb the 1400 ft hump had been wise, not least because once you got to the top of a high hill, there is no 'foreground interest' apart from the sheep which would not sit long enough for me to set up a tripod. I thought the big vistas would make for great pictures but unfortunately the best of them were south, into the bright sun. Except for having the foresight to pack a polariser, my preparation proved to be rather poor. Usually, I like to wield a 300mm prime and try to track fast falcons, and thought I had packed a fairly modest bag with two wide angle and a 70-200 for luck, WRONG. It was only when I got home and weighed the bag that I found I was carrying over 2 stone up a hill that took two hours to scale. It was how I imagine a bricklayer feels carrying a hod up a ladder but don't know of any who have to keep it up for so long. The biggest mistake was not to have packed water. Well I did, but it was in the car!!! Some passing walkers gave me a mouthful - a drink I will remember for the rest of my life. One or two of them obligingly stood still to provide the foreground interest I sorely needed. However, they did not have the knack that sheep have of being able to stand on the steepest of slopes and look comfortable. So they just posed triumphant on the highest point like the conquerors they were. But I was not confident that this would be a winner, as it could have been anywhere..... It was during one of those encounters that I spied a small limestone outcrop on a very steep slope close to the precipice. That would help to frame the rolling fields and provide the foreground. The only way to get to it was to slide down slowly on my derriere, using the tripod as a kind of ice axe... As I did, I reflected that I would never have permitted anyone else to do this. I was so close to the edge that there was only just enough ground to stand the tripod if the legs were shut down as short as possible. I told myself beforehand that if the tripod slipped, I would have to let it go. But the view was stunning. The scudding clouds were making a patchwork all over the bright green fields and the polariser was perfect for making the best of the big sky. There was a chain of hills far below and I would love to have moved to get it curving across my framed landscape. However, that would have needed scaffolding - and I hadn't packed any. I was happy to have found at least one view with interest that captured the ambience of the day. The others were different and one, taken with the long lens, included a sheep which, because of the distance, didn't mind being the subject of foreground interest. What a great day!!! I frequently mused that except for being in this competition, this is a hill I would never have scaled in my whole life. The weather was perfect, the challenge invigorating and the views were stunning. The walk back to the village was murder. At the outset we had been told it would take about half an hour. I normally pride myself on being able to organise time but I failed to compensate for the fact that the man who told us was at least 20 years younger than me, a foot taller, and was not carrying anything. I laboured up the hilly road back to Longnor so hot and thirsty that my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth and my hair was crusty with sweat. I drank two litres of water as soon as I got to the car and when I took the bag off, I was walking with a forward stoop. But it was worth it...... And the rest of the afternoon, spent outside the pub in sunshine with a few tall drinks, was sublime... Thank you Photography Monthly - see you in the next round!!

No comments:

Post a Comment