No Snow Now

We’ve not had a real Winter for a few years now; no prolonged, hard frosts or heavy snow falls, but then I think snow fall has always been a bit special in England (unless you live north of the Watford Gap, in which case you probably spend most of your year digging your car out of 6ft drifts). That’s why when it does happen, everyone tweets about it and all transport grinds to a halt.

So when I got my first, ancient photographic portfolio down from the attic the other day, I was delighted to stumble across this snow picture which I must have taken circa 1988 when I was freelancing for The Bath Chronicle.

It must have been a slow news day when the flakes started to fall and I recall being sent out in rather un-promising conditions to go and get a photo to illustrate the “blizzard”.

The snow really was rather light, so I had a bit of a heavy heart, but as I made my way to Victoria Park in Bath, it started to get rather heavier. I recall this would have been mid-morning and the deadline for the last edition of the paper would have been imminent, bearing in mind I had to get back to the office, process and print my photos and get them to the subs desk before I missed the last deadline.

Thankfully, by the time I got to the park there was a decent covering. At least enough to show it had snowed, even if it wasn’t a white-out. I remember lifting my camera to frame the scene and being vaguely aware of the sound of a cyclist coming up behind me. I didn’t have time to look round, so just waited for them to pass into my frame, which is when I got this frame.

From memory I believe I took two or three more pictures in quick succession, but the first one was the best.

Happy that I had something I dashed back to the office and got the print to the desk on time.

Sadly I don’t have the cutting, so I can’t say which page it appeared on, but I do remember there was a letter from a reader a week later saying how much they enjoyed the photo. Bearing in mind they had to write and post a letter rather than just clicking a Like button and saying “wow” I was very pleased to have got some appreciation for the photo.

It’s not a super-dramatic weather photo, but I still like how I lined it all up and got lucky with the extra element of the cyclist. Even better that she was all wrapped up in black on a black bike, which just adds to the atmosphere of the scene.

Well now that Winter is over and we’re into spring, maybe I’ll get a good, contemporary monsoon-style downpour photo soon. Something for people to Like and say “wow”.

Cold, wet and Poldark

Filming for the TV series Poldark is due to start in Frome this week and since yesterday was an admin day (boo hiss paperwork) I took the opportunity to stretch my legs and take a couple of shots in the street where crews are currently at work making sure all signs of modern life are removed or obscured.

The weather was pretty dire with high winds and plenty of rain and I didn’t have a great deal of time to work up a broad selection of photos, but it got me thinking about all the times I’ve ventured out with my camera when the weather is bad – mostly in the past in order to get extreme weather photos for national newspapers.

I still enjoy the challenge of getting pictures in adverse conditions, even if I’m not venturing into the world’s extreme regions. Seeing how people interact and cope with the weather is often interesting in itself. Sometimes the weather is just a distraction, as in the Poldark pictures. Other times it becomes the focus of the story (the 2001 Trooping the Colour is a fine example). More often now the weather is the story, as when there is flooding or gale damage.

Here’s a quick gallery round-up of extreme (or sometimes just mildly difficult) weather photos I’ve done over the years, from Trooping the Colour to yesterday’s preparations for Poldark.

Please click to enlarge and scroll through the photos.

In Summery [sic]

If you’re currently on holiday, sitting in a caravan on a rain-soaked and windswept holiday park in the UK, I feel your pain.

I used to take photos for holiday park brochures, mainly of the static caravan variety, and it was always a task made unpredictable by the English weather.

The photo featured here was taken after I’d been held up on a park in Northumberland by poor weather which persisted for two or three days. It got to the point where, having done every conceivable interior photo, I literally couldn’t shoot anything outdoors that would have made the park and its surroundings look like a great Summer destination as the mist, or sea fret as it’s locally known, had set in and wasn’t going to shift.

Eventually I had to abandon the shoot and drive home, which back then meant a six-hour drive to Portsmouth.

There is no moral or sage advice attached to this tale of inconvenience, except to say that it being August and holiday time, I shall be suspending blog posts until September 1st.

I hope that whatever you plan to do this Summer, wherever you go, you get the weather you want and return refreshed and ready to face Christmas merchandise in the shops and an Indian Summer which will no doubt be in full flow once you’re back at your desk.

Bye for now!

Here Comes the Rain Again

Naze Holiday Park in Essex

You need sunshine for an outside pool shot

Do you remember summers? I do, though I have to think back a bit.

I was thinking about this year’s weather and how it affects my work. My conclusion was that it doesn’t affect it as much as it used to, especially when I was shooting holiday park brochures for the likes of Hoseasons and Great British Holiday Parks.

It was always a bit of a struggle to time the shoots on lodge and caravan parks because I would have to organise the dates with the parks I was visiting, then spend a few days at a stretch traveling from one park to another, allowing about a day at each one, taking pictures for each park’s brochure page.

The brief tended to include getting a hero shot of the pool, a selection of caravan interiors and exteriors, the entertainments (daytime and evening), general views of the park and surrounding areas. Mostly these shots required people/models that I would have to find on the park and persuade to be in the shots.

Apart from the interior shots, everything else required a certain amount of sunshine, and I wasn’t always lucky.

One particularly memorable year I found myself in Whitley Bay, rained and fogged in for two days. Having shot all the interiors I possibly could, I waited and waited, but the weather was showing no signs of improving to the point that I gave up and drove home.

The work itself wasn’t entirely without its joys, meeting lovely people and having a bit of a laugh along the way, but it was undeniably long, hard days and when the weather broke down, it could be dispiriting. Often the shoots were timed around May before the holiday season started, so if it wasn’t decent weather it could be quite chilly and not many people around to model for the shots.

Foggy beach

After waiting several hours for the fog to lift at one beach, I gave up and got this stock shot instead

If I’d had to shoot parks the last couple of years I think I would have gone slowly insane. Apart from the wasted effort of organising and traveling to parks, once you’ve committed the best part of a week to shooting on location you can’t book in other work. If the weather then wipes out the park work, you’re left with not much more than a couple of wet-weather payments, which don’t add up to a hill of beans.

In addition to all that, there’s the deadline to contend with. A designer would need the images by about the end of June at the latest in order to get the brochure designed and to the printers ready to go out just before Christmas. Some parks would just get skipped altogether if the weather meant that time ran out.

No, I don’t miss shooting parks too much. It was nice work, and it got me out and about. I’ve covered parks from the Isle of Wight to Wales, Dorset to Kent and Essex and both East and West coasts of Scotland, but I’ve since replaced the work with other things, and if the last few years are anything to go by, I’m probably better off for it.