Monday, 11 April 2011

Big Issue in the North No. 1

I was the third victim, oops, sorry, volunteer to participate in this very fruitful partnership with the 'Big Issue in the North'. I must thank OCA and Jose for this fantastic opportunity, it has been a really rewarding, if a little scary, experience.

My week finished today, so all being well, the image will be published in the next issue due out this Friday.  I must admit I have purchased the Big Issue not infrequently in the past, but more on an ad-hoc basis. However, these past two weeks when I specifically tried to purchase the mag with Ben or Stan's work in and my local seller is nowhere to be seen. Well, to be fair, more likely I'm shopping at strange times!

Look at the national and local news and take a subject that is 'topical' and more importantly try and make an interesting picture out of it. That was the challenge. I can do that, surely!!! I thought of two main topics...the first, seasonal - weather, holidays and general spring optimism, and the second, energy...fukushima, sellafield, renewable energy etc...had I known what a flamboyant affair the funeral of Eddie Stobart was going to be, I may have added that to the list.

So, was it easy?...well like Stan, I found this to be not an unstressful challenge and most definitely not easy. You can't go back and rely on those wonderful depthless archives. On Wednesday I headed out to tackle the energy theme, seemed sensible living near 'Britain's Energy Coast'...I came home with several images of wind turbines but they were indomitably dull!! Sellafield was too far to reach given my other commitments.

It was rapidly dawning on me, it is one thing coming up with a list of things to photograph, but quite another finding interesting ways of photographing them. Hmmm, I start to feel alarmingly hot, fractious and flustered.  No, don't be ridiculous, it's still only Wednesday...days yet...

Change tack...

The farms all around at the moment are in the thick of lambing.  I have been glued to the BBC 2 hit series 'Lambing Live' and decide to try and capture a live birth - seeing lambs in the fields is somehow synonymous with the arrival of Spring. I phone a friend. Lambs are sure to pluck the heart strings of any reader. And additionally, if I could get it seconds after birth, I could perhaps present a grittier portrayal of a lamb, rather than photographing the adorable, frolicky, and dare I add cliched, variety that we love to see in our fields.

At 7.00 am Thursday morning I get the is due right now. Damn. Husband away, three kids still in pyjamas, can't make it.  But we rally anyway and have left the house by 7.45 am and head for Hill Farm.  On arriving I'm expecting the lamb to have been born, but there are difficulties.  I am fortunate that I and my son have the opportunity of seeing a live birth, an assisted delivery by Raymond Christopherson. I photograph the whole procedure.  The first lamb is large and feet first - it is a struggle for mother and Raymond, and has sadly died on arrival. We saw something almost identical the night before on Lambing Live. The second lamb is born the conventional way, head first and is healthy. The mother bonds with it. This is all before I drop my three lovely lambs off at school.  Photographically however, it pushed my camera beyond its realistic limits.  The barn was unlit (unlike on lambing live) and flash would clearly have been intrusive.  So I go manual all the way, iso is raised to its maximum, 1600, I reduce the f-stop to its minimum and set the shutter speed for 1/60&80.  All taken in raw I have altered the levels and exposure to recover them. I was really pleased with the shots.   These two were my and Jose's favourite from this batch.

Whilst I was pleased with these, I did want a back-up set of images just in case. So at St Bees yesterday, there were hoards of people taking advantage of the unseasonably warm April weather.  I do love the British optimism when it comes to nice weather...we're out in our masses.  I submitted two images from this day which follow. The first focussing on the litter that comes with the masses, and the second presenting the quintessentially British picnic.

Jose selected the above civilised picnicking couple to be used for the Big Issue. I can see why. It epitomises something very British; it could be anywhere yet reflects our obsession with the weather and our enthusiasm to enjoy and embrace the sun on every occasion, particularly when it's still only April! There is such a wonderful humour that is all our own here in the UK.  Below is the cropped, final version.
And as for the lamb...well, he'll have to forego fame this time. More seriously, I have been meaning to photograph lambing for sometime, this gave me the impetus to make the call and do it.  It was a first for me and my son and I'm chuffed with the pics.

It's been a great experience and I encourage those with the OCA who haven't to sign up and have a go...the time pressure certainly adds to the excitement or should I say anxiety! Either way, it's fun!


  1. Love the couple: I think it was a great choice. Congratulations you!

  2. Hey, well done, Penny; nice touch of optimism after my 'doom and gloom' picture!

  3. Ha Ha - that's a fantastic bit of stereotypical British humour Penny... even down to the white socks and the old style wicker picnic basket. They must be posh though, they've got paper plates! Bet the old cafe was full on that day too - all it needs is a couple of old 50s cafe racer bikes outside and it would make a great setting for some B&W photos. I especially love your pictures of the lambs... and so do my kids... that's a real sign of new beginnings and brighter things ahead (Unless your a lamb of course!).

  4. Thank you Eileen, Stan and Adey. There were bikers at the caf, quite a few of them, I didn't photograph them however...infact there was quite a few of every walk of life out that day. The queue for ice cream circled the aisles at the caf so we gave up and went in to St Bees instead. With regards the picnic image, if I'm honest, it wasn't my own favourite but can see its appeal. Interesting lesson for me in editorial selection.