Remember the Olympics …?
It seems such a long time ago now doesn’t it? For the whole summer we prepared, we followed the torch, we watched the events and we revelled in the victories and wallowed in the defeats. I never got to see any of the events live but followed them on the fantastic television coverage. However, I did have the possibility of an opportunity to see the torch on its journey. We were visiting some friends in Kildwick quite close to Skipton along the designated Olympic Torch Route and one of us had suggested that this be part of the agenda for the day. I’m up for that I thought…it could involve my second love in life….my camera.
It was one of those ideal moments for me, an event that probably would never be repeated in my lifetime and an awesome opportunity for a photo-shoot. The array of subject matter went trawling through my head in a long list. I had seen the television coverage for weeks in advance. It was to take the torch 70 days and an epic 8000 miles along the streets, lanes and motorways of Great Britain. This is something that I just didn’t want to miss. The parking, traffic and crowds were a major concern to us, we had a pressing engagement later that afternoon and it couldn’t be missed. Skipton is a market town and civil parish in the Craven district of North Yorkshire. It is located on the course of the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and to give you a better idea of the size, it has a population of 14,313. Between our friends, Elaine & myself we had decided that the best option was to stay quite close to Kildwick and see the flame on its entrance to Skipton. On this basis it would be easier to park, easier to see without the massing crowds and easier to escape once it had all subsided.
We made a choice. Our position was decided and it was on the main A613 Keighley Road, about a mile from the town centre. As we arrived the crowds were already building and one or two official looking “Olympic” people were wandering around pointing and shouting in their flourescent jackets. There was one particular character who insisted on walking down the middle of the road shouting out to the crowd and informing them of the torches impending arrival. Information that the majority of the crowd already knew. There was also a massive police presence and most were parked up just waiting. I have to give the forces concerned full credit as they were ever so friendly. As the host city police force, the Metropolitan Police would be providing a torch security team, who would be responsible for the integrity, safety and security of the Olympic and Paralympic Flames and also the torch-bearer who would be holding the Flame.
Police motorcycles were darting around avoiding the traffic which was still using the road until the very last-minute. I put a longer lens on the camera to give me some extra reach. This would enable me to get in closer and get some facial expressions; my ultimate goal being to capture the essence of the day and the big build up to the opening ceremony. Within half an hour of us setting up camp they were closing the road to through traffic in preparation for the flames arrival. It was then that one of my first great photo opportunities presented itself in front of me. As you will know from reading my blogs I like to keep my eyes open and always be aware of what is going on around. This really helps should you have to capture something on the fly. I had seen two motorcycle officers riding slowly down the middle of the road side by side as if they were escorting an invisible dignitary; as they moved from the centre to the kerb side I could see people stepping out slightly to see the officers. They were very informal, helmet visors were up and they were communicating with the crowds. I stepped off the kerb and looked down the road and at high zoom; I managed to frame the outrider in full. In one magical moment, a split second in time, just as I was about to press the shutter he decided that he was going to hi-five a lady in the crowd. I had earlier dropped my F stop to 5.6 enabling a little background separation and fired off half a dozen frames. Bingo ! I was very happy. This was the start of it and there would be so much more to see… I was sure.
As I stated earlier the Police took their guard down and were very friendly. The normal stand-off-ish approach by some members of the public towards them was absent and this really rose the spirits of the crowd. You could see it too, people were smiling and everyone was chatting; it reminded me of the Queens’ Silver Jubilee in 1977. There was an atmosphere about the place, flags were waving, people smiling and an ambience that would be so unlike any other Sunday in June on that main road in to Skipton. This was the start of the 2012 Olympics. A celebration for the whole country and a reason to be proud, a reason to be British.
Photographs of the crowd were in abundance. People who would normally have been afraid to have a photographer poke a big lens in their faces seemed to drop their guard. The aura of the day, the feeling and anticipation, and the atmosphere was fantastic. It wasnt the cup final, it wasnt the royal wedding but it was something that affected the nation, something that was localised and pulled the villages, towns and cities of the United Kingdom together in unity.
As usual, in my style of photography I planned to try to do something a little different. It was easy to capture the flame carrier, everybody did and why wouldn’t you? She was the highlight of the whole parade and been isolated at the front of the entourage she stole the show. I wanted to go one step further and capture her expression as she carried the torch. I was positioned on a gradual bend in the road, a carefully selected location as I knew that with a long lens I could compress the perspective and create a flattened feeling to the images. This would also help to separate the subject matter from the background.
There were so many photo opportunities that the resulting quantity of images proved overwhelming. Adobe Lightroom must have reached for extra resources whilst importing the files as it took nearly an hour to get them off the CF Cards. It’s very easy to shoot hundreds of images at an event, sometimes even over a thousand but it’s not always about quantity. Quality and results are far the overriding factors when it comes to it at the end of the day. I was very happy with the results and in particular one image which stood out from the rest. The image at the top of the post with the police officer high fiving the crowd was great but I was very pleased with the shot below.
The image gives a real feel to the day. I love her expression, her feeling of joy and happiness. You can almost feel that she has recently recognised someone in the crowd and has felt a sudden “Giddy up” through sheer excitement of being seen. I felt so happy for her. Certain elements of the image were shot intentionally; I wanted to have a portion of the olympic car in the frame as its yellow paint stood out from the rest of the picture. I also wanted some of the crowd in the same frame but not to distract from the focus of the picture. Careful planning, careful shooting and a little bit of luck all helped to make this my favourite image. The removal of colour from certain elements of the scene is a little “old school” and quite clichéd and tired now, but I thought it suited the scene.
On a separate note, one thing I noticed when I got the images in to Adobe Lightroom was the reflection of the blue strobe lights from my skylight filter on my lens, this was quite annoying as it appeared on every image that contained the police vehicles and was a bit tricky to remove. I would have liked to have said that it added to the image but it just became annoying.
I have never been able to trace the girl but I believe her name is Tor Hughes from Stockport, Cheshire. Tor, if you are reading this then please get in touch, you can have some copies of the images free of charge.
Below you will find a slide show of the images, this is the first time I have tried this within WordPress and I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t adjust the size of the window as it looked too large for my liking. Nevertheless, thanks for reading and please come back soon. All comments welcome, as always.
If you are having difficulty viewing the slide show then please take a look at the image set on flickr here
Posted on March 6, 2013, in Flickr, Photography (General) and tagged 24 june 2012, cheshire, mark winterbourne, north yorkshire, olympic torch flame, skipton, stockport, tor hughes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.