These foolish people with cameras…

These foolish people with cameras…

Has anyone been watching the Euro 2012 competition? Nope, me neither. Yes, I am a football fan, but somehow the national side has never really “done it” for me. I espied an interesting spectacle earlier on when I was starting to put this entry together – namely a group of people in a neighbouring block had decided to watch the England game outside. TV bench, TV, chairs, nibbles and what seemed like enough beer to drown a battle cruiser were assembled. There was much shouting, hollering, wailing and gnashing of teeth as the game progressed, which seemed to rise to a crescendo when it went into penalties. There was joy unconfined at the final outcome. I should mention that the gathering was mainly Polish and they were all backing Italy. Some of us were praying for rain. Bastards!

Midsummer’s Day came and went in the week – I didn’t feel a thing, did you? Yes, it’s all downhill until its winter counterpart in December now – the nights are drawing in and the winter draws on. There also seemed to be some confusion as to when the “longest day” was this year – as we all know, it is traditionally the 21st, but there seemed to be a school of thought that it should be one day earlier, because of the leap-year day. I took my lead from the Druids, after all, they should know, right?

Call it whimsy, romanticism or just plain foolishness, but I’d got it into my head to go out and capture the sunrise on this most auspicious of days. It was supposed to be part of a wider project and I’d said yes in a moment of weakness some time ago. So, there was I, leaving home at 02:30am on the 21st armed with camera, tripod, folding chair with snazzy cup holder in the arm and flask of freshly made tea. No, just tea, no perking it up! My destination was Eastbrook End Country Park, which is the thick end of 10 minutes’ walk from home. I thought it’d be good to use the lake as a reflector for the wonderful sky and the water would appear still in the early shots because of the lengthened exposure times I’d be able to achieve.

I also thought it might be good to make the stills into a kind of mini-movie and set it to music – I’ve got a copy of the original BBC Breakfast Time theme and thought about using that. Yes, I know that these sorts of things have been done before, but never by me and I fancied having a go. To make it work effectively, it’s a case of lining up the shot and then locking-off the camera, so that field of view stays constant. I’d already programmed my rather snazzy and very reasonably priced remote control so all I had to do was set up, line up the shot and hit the release – the controller would take care of the rest.

So, I arrive at the entrance to find the gates well and truly locked. Oh well. I head along the perimeter until I come to an alternative means of entry and in I go, but I now have to head back in the general direction I’ve come from, as the lake I want to use is the other side of the gates from my current position. Not a problem, it is not yet 3am and I didn’t need to be set up until 3.30, so plenty of time. There is just enough light for me to see my way along the various tracks and thinking I know where I am I take the path that I’m sure leads to the lake. Wrong. I end up going down a dip and under a group of trees that are now blocking out all available light. Attentive readers will note that there was one item omitted from my list of things, you’ve got it – no torch!

I am a fairly regular visitor to the park and the lake and I know that I’m now on the wrong path – in my defence, it all looks different in the dark! Anyway, after a bit of faffing around I soon rediscover the right path and soon I’m on the landing stage that faces East. Within 10 minutes I’m all unpacked, camera set up and tea poured. Followers of my Twitter feed were treated to a few pictures of the setup and the odd tweet, whilst a friend in the USA was getting regular e-mailed pictures from the Blackberry – they thought it was hilarious as they were still on the 20th!

As the snazzy remote is taking care of business, I drink my tea, listen to some well chosen music and just sit watching the sky get gradually lighter, whilst the wind got stronger and the air got more and more damp. At around 4:10am it is light enough to see easily and I’m treated to a view of early morning swimming lessons for a family of ducks.

Lighting-up time was at 4.44am according to that bastion of truth, the BBC Weather site. The thing is, I don’t think the weather God was in receipt of the e-mail. Yes, the sky got brighter and there was a hint of colour in the greyness that was pervading, but the sun itself remained firmly incognito. Of the 200+ shots, I can’t honestly say that any are worth keeping, but I’ve put what to me, is the best of a bad lot, below.

Right – time for a bit of analysis. At first look, the trees forming the horizon appear out of focus however, this is not the case. Where the exposures were quite long, the fairly stiff wind was making the leaves move, which in made them appear OOF in the frame. For the record, the exposure time on this frame is 6 seconds. This is also why the birds that are in the bottom centre are a bit fuzzy – they were obviously moving whilst the shutter was open.

On the positive side, I got the effect I was after with the water, but the lack of detail in the sky is something I can do nothing about – if it is not there, no photographer can conjure it up. At just after 5am, it started to rain, which had been forecast for a bit later, but had obviously decided to arrive early. All my kit is weather-proof, so I wasn’t worried on that score (it survived a snowstorm last September with no ill effects) but there didn’t seem much point in hanging around – it was not going to get any better. I packed up in record time and as I was passing the gate which had been locked earlier, I saw it was now open, so I used it to exit which saved me a good 10 minutes. I was soon home and on the outside of a fresh mug of tea.

Annoyingly, every sunrise since has been perfect. I know I could go and capture any one of a hundred, but it would not be the same as getting it on the right day.

In other news, Sky have been on to me about coming back – they’ll even let me have my old deal free for six months, provided I say “yes” by the 30th of June. They don’t seem to grasp the small but important detail – I don’t watch enough TV any more.

Saturday was spent covering Celebrate the City and West End Live, both in London, but there is going to be a separate entry in a day or so.

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