Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Say cheese…

Rather shockingly, I've won this month's Guardian travel photography competition, on the theme of solitude. Shocking because lots of the other shortlisted entries are stunning, and because I almost never travel, and certainly nowhere 'exotic'. I go to Ireland several times a year, and to Stoke-on-Trent most weeks.

(Click to enlarge the photos)

I can only see the shot's flaws now, but I'm still pleased with it. The girl's hair matches the paintwork, and the different lighting emphasises her isolation. I never use flash or tricky post-production nonsense: this was taken with a 50mm f/1.8 at 1/200, 1600 ISO on my Nikon D7000.

I took it at 1 a.m. at the famous Puck Fair in Killorglin, Ireland. Out of shot, 10,000 drunks are marauding round the streets singing, drinking and celebrating, while a wild goat presides over the festivities from the safety of a tower. I was interested in the aftermath - you can see from my set that the place is trashed, though by 6 a.m. the streets are pristine once more and ready for the child-friendly daytime activities. I've a taste for garish fun sometimes - a couple of years ago I took my old camera to Birds' Funfair at Puck and was pleased with the results despite having very limited technical resources.

The lad demanded I take his picture, then his sister arrived to tell him that I 'might be a paedo' and promised me a beating if I was. She still wanted her picture taking though. 

Live footage of people up on some horrific ride. It reminded me of something from David Lynch. 

The next competition's theme is 'beach'. I don't go to many beaches, but I was thinking of submitting one of these. 

The beach at Formby/Crosbie near Liverpool has these Anthony Gormley statues all over it, at different depths of water or in the sand. People do funny things to them, like paint on swimming trunks, dress them up as James Bond and so on: high art becomes folk art (see them here). They're also ageing beautifully, covered in rust and algae. But they're so familiar now (one was entered for the competition I won) that it's hard to photograph them in a new way. So I was pleased to find this family camped around a rusty naked gentleman even though the beach was almost deserted. The sun was blazing, so I decided that I could emphasise both the heat and their isolation by opening up the aperture to its maximum, flooding the image with light and losing all the background detail.

My other options are more traditional landscape shots, taken from another spot near Liverpool: Hilbre Island off the Wirral peninsula. At low tide, the sea becomes a mud flat, sometimes even a beach, and you can walk out to the islands. The weather changes every few minutes and the light is wonderful.

What could be more English than this? 'Trudging slowly over wet sand' in the rain towards a coastal town they forgot to close down, whose most prominent building is a Morrison's supermarket?

Which one do you think I should enter?


Anonymous said...

The first one, with the statue!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on winning! Being a fan of your photographs for a while now and I just wished you could see the beauty in your own pictures a bit more. Always a critic ;-) I prefer Hilbre pictures, although the 'statue' photograph has a wonderful 50's feel to it.

Incandescent Llama said...

Well done. I really enjoyed the Flickr photos of Puck Fair. You have a good way of capturing that je ne sais quo that surrounds the elderly rural Irish male. Llama.