Posts Tagged ‘competition’

After covering the superb wedding at Loch Lomond in March it was back to the regular bread and butter work. The equestrian competitions were now up and running across the region though we did have two gymnastics events to cover also.

First up was the North West Disability Championships in Wigan. This was our second year of coverage, having been booked at the close of the 2017 event. We have also been booked to cover the 2019 event too. We love them, they love us and the work is most engaging and grounding.

Disabilities come in all shapes and forms so it would take me an age to describe all of the categories we saw over the two days. I can however say that the competitors are fabulous, with no bickering or snide comments that we hear at other events. Lots of encouragement from both fellow competitors and public alike makes a wonderful gymnastics competition. With floor, beam, bars, vault, horse & trampoline disciplines we certainly have our work cut out providing a balanced coverage, though the organisers do help us with staggered starts etc.

Our second main event of the month also saw us covering gymnastics, though this time it was able bodied gymnasts and at Bridlington. A four piece competition, which we have covered for the last few years, saw some excellent routines on the floor, beam, bars and vault by a large cross section of competitors. The morning session was all of the juniors which are usually year 6 and below, with the afternoon being year 7 and above.

We are looked after at both of the mentioned locations with tea, coffee, meals & even cake.Whilst this doesn’t sway our choice to cover its always a plus point when we are driving there early on a weekend morning.

Some of the medallists from both events.

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March was one of those months that just flew by, was solid with bookings and when you get to the end of the month you sit back and think, yeah we did it.

The month kicked off with us covering the UK BSGA Trampoline Finals in Belfast. We had been booked for this since our coverage of the previous 2017 event. The organiser had approached us, asked us if we were prepared to travel and after some brief discussions we were booked again.

The journey and ferry was simply a repeat of the January travelling I had done for the Steel Panther & Wayward Sons tour, though this time there was no issue with snow. I’m pleased that this event was just outside the normal poor winter weather possibility as when the van is full of gear, I wouldn’t want to be driving in snow. We set off late on the Friday and arrived at Cairnryan around 2am on the Saturday morning. Into the ferry queue and heads down for a couple of hours before waking to embark on the ferry. Once on it was find a comfy seat and fall asleep again for the two hour crossing. Arriving in Belfast at the crack of dawn, already tired, was not the best start yet the only way we could do this. A quick stop for coffee’s and breakfast still saw us arrive nice and early at the venue.

Once in we got the desk set up, the camera settings agreed and then the show started. It was absolute mayhem from start to finish, as had been the previous years finals. Several hundred school kids vying for their places on the rostrum. Parents & teachers screaming instructions at them whilst judges & helpers tried to maintain some kind of semblance and organisation to it all. To be fair the day could have been a lot worse, the PA kept failing and so communication was sporadic and at times confusing for some, yet everyone in authority just pulled together and shoved the whole machine to the finish line, just over an hour or so late.

We knew things would overrun so booking a ferry back on he same day would be almost impossible to predict and I would be seriously sleep deprived. We had therefore booked a lovely B&B just outside Belfast and, it transpired, from where we could see Stormont on the hill too. I had barely sat down and I was nodding off so an early night was had by all, to which our slumber was only disturbed by our alarm the following morning. Up, showered, breakfast and then back in the van for the ferry, the crossing & the subsequent five hour drive back to home. We arrived home mid afternoon after a no rush, plenty of coffee stop, journey.

Photography wise this was quite simple other than the open glass ceiling lights. The sun was bright and so large sun spots moved slowly accross the trampoline beds throughout the day. Altering your exposure is easy enough, though when you have just done so and the sun pops behind a cloud things can go dark. Thankfully Lisa, on our desk, was up to the job of getting these images onto our screens in a suitable state and as always did an excellent job of selling them too.

Flag bearers from the final awards ceremony.

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March also saw us cover, for the third year, the Yorkshire Gymnastics Regional Finals at Haltemprice Sports Centre. This is an absolute gem for us as its so local we can literally leave home 15 minutes before our access time. As it was our third year we knew exactly what was involved, what was expected and how we would deliver it all.

The day went smoothly and actually finished on time, which is a massive bonus for us, allowing us to have an evening meal at a most sensible time for once. Photography wise this location does not have the best of lighting and so the ISO’s are rather high. As this doesn’t bode well for cropping the pressure to capture things in an almost printable version is high. Not the easiest thing to do though once you work out what sells, where the gymnasts are doing those moves, you simply position yourself and hope things fall into place along with some good general imagery.

Its also great that they all have such a sense of fun too.

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The remainder of March was mopped up with equestrian work and another superb, one off, job which will be getting its own entry on the blog. Loch Lomond anyone?

February saw us have an almost complete calendar filled with equestrian competitions other than one weekend of gymnastics in Wigan for the NDP 3 qualifying.

The equestrian work continues to grow and our images have been used in both the Equestrian Life and Horse & Hound Publications since we began. As I have mentioned before the work is not particularly difficult other than standing outside for several hours at a time. When the weather is kind, the job is great though if the weather is not so good then it can be a real headache. With persistent rain I usually start shooting and see how things go. Sadly if the images are being spoilt by the intensity of the rain and its affect on the images then I pack up and go home. I did stick it out in the early months of 2017 though quickly realised that we had not, and still have not, sold a single image when it is either raining or misty.

Thankfully all of the dates that I covered in February all stayed dry and so I captured full days of competition.

The NDP 3 Qualifying event at Wigan was almost a repeat of the NDP 2 event, the previous month. More fierce competition with competitors trying to grab the all important points to take them into the national rounds. Again the day was a success for us on both the image and sales fronts, though thats now it at Wigan until the Autumn when the NW Championship series returns.

Some equestrian images including jumps.

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January is usually a quiet month for us. Gymnastic competitions are few and far between and most outdoor events, including our equestrian work, have yet to start. 2018 however started with two large events for us.

Firstly there was a re scheduled North West NDP Qualifier weekend in Wigan followed by a weekend at Huddersfield for the BSGA Northern Qualifying Event. The Wigan event is one of three qualifying events which can see competitors continue onward to national event qualification. The competition is fierce, qualification places are limited and the entire weekend is absolutely superb to watch and indeed cover. The weekend as a whole, for us personally, was a success and we left having fulfilled what we set out to do as always in deliver the best coverage possible. Starting as we meant to continue throughout 2018 we captured a rather modest 6000 images.

Secondly we covered the BSGA Northern trampoline competition qualifier for the finals which are to be held Northern Ireland during March this year. We are booked to cover the Finals too so it was interesting to see who, as in individuals and indeed schools, qualified. At this stage a large amount of the competitors are known to us from other competitions, with mostly the school groups having individuals we have not seen before. Having not been able to cover the North East qualification event in November this also let us see what they had on offer to challenge at the finals. Again the weekend went well, some 7500 images were taken and profit conversion was excellent. February was fast approaching and we had big smiles on our faces already.

So the social media image for the NDP 2.

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And the social media image for the Northern BSGA Regional Qualifier.

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We already knew that December only had the one large event for us. This was the Trampoline & DMT League 2017 Finals which were to be held at the Velodrome in London.

Whilst this is a prestige event it is also a right royal pain in the butt for us. The two days are simply manic, if previous years events are to go by, along with two huge drives to and from London along with overpriced accommodation. Prestigious though not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination.

We arrived nice and early only to find that, for the third year running, we had not been issued laminates or passes to the event. This put me in a bad mood, from the off, which I found hard to contain when speaking to representatives of the League. As always one individual, the same individual as previous years, was blamed for our omission for the sponsors list. As sponsors we are promised the earth each year and yet delivered almost nothing once we have paid our sponsorship money to them. This fact alone is making me wonder if the whole series is with continuing with beyond 2017. There are some lovely and genuine people involved with running the League, though sadly there are also a couple of soft heads who just don’t seem to care about anyone other than themselves.

The weekend, as always, was utterly manic in every respect. Panels over running, accidents delaying competition and organisers running about like headless chickens trying to resolve the monumental pile of issues being thrown at them. Sunday’s presentations were rushed because of over running which meant our desk receiving an unwarranted barrage of complaints that winners had not been given suitable time on the podium for pictures. We happily sent them to the organisers as this also affects our sales.

To top things off, on the Sunday, we ended up almost being evicted from the premises for not having sponsors laminates. Yes almost 48hrs after we had arrived there was still no sign of our laminates. Thankfully our request for the security supervisor to intervene and talk to a representative of the League calmed things down and we continued to trade until the last image of the day had been sold.

The drive home was taken after a deep sigh and a quick chat about us and the 2018 series. What is true is that we won’t be continuing with them in the current style of agreement without concrete guarantees and penalties for failures on their part.

December also saw us cover the Fenland Flyers Xmas function, which also happened to be their 10th anniversary as a club. An excellent evening as always.

A few remaining dates were filled with equestrian competition, though you can see from the image I have posted, the sun is low and the air is now cold. Already looking forward to spring next year with this particular strand of work.

So that was it for 2017. Year on year we have grown substantially in events covered and takings. Profits, after costs, are also up and we have bookings in to not only 2018 yet 2019 also. Now for a nice two weeks off over Xmas & New Year.

The Trampoline & DMT League’s impressive medals.

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An example of the rushed podiums, which caused complaints.

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A pic from the Fenland Flyers function, taken against our portable studio back drop.

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And finally a cold chilly pic from one of the equestrian events.

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Merry Xmas & Happy New Year.

 

November is an odd month for us in that we have been booked to cover the Yorkshire, North West and North East Schools BSGA Trampoline Competitions for the last four years. This leaves us with little room to squeeze anything else in. This year however saw the North East committee leave things so late that the only weekend they could secure a venue we were already booked (covering the NW event) so we had to decline the booking. Whilst we were saddened not to be covering it, and indeed it wasn’t covered by any photographer, we did have the backup of the equestrian work and a late gymnastics event booking too.

The Yorkshire weekend was first, followed by the North West with the gymnastics event being on the third weekend of the month. The equestrian events fell nicely into the gaps and so yet again we had a full month of events to work at. With only the League Finals in December this is the time when some good sales carries us nicely into the new year when things begin to happen again.

Again this was our fourth year of covering these BSGA events and so we knew exactly what was coming. The entire set of weekends went as planned and we came out of November in a very buoyant place. The gymnastics event was also a success as they had not previously booked a photography company to cover the event. Lots of first time purchasers there then.

Finally and yet again the equestrian work filled in the gaps. Yes its getting cold and the purchases are slowing, due to the drop in competitors, though any business is better than no business. To be honest its not much fun standing outside, for several hours, in November. I’m wrapped up like an eskimo and should the sun decide to make an appearance I will face it, absorbing its brief moments of warmth, until it becomes obscured by clouds again. The wind chill is the absolute killer now and so if there’s no wind at all I’m a happy Chappy standing beside the competition rings.

BSGA Yorkshires

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BSGA North West

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Gymnastics

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Equestrian competition in November, with sunlight.

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And just to prove that gymnastics can be fun too …..

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Sunday saw us booked to cover a regional qualifying round for the British Riding Clubs UK Championships. Winners and, I believe, certain others would be qualifying for the National finals in a few weeks which is quite some achievement when you consider what they have to do on a horse.

Horse jumping has always intrigued me, especially those jumps where the height simply doesn’t appear achievable, yet the horse somehow gets over without knocking off the poles. So, as a non rider myself, the fact that people can actually make a horse complete any number of manoeuvres, which include almost dancing, to me, is exceptional. I know full well that many hundreds of hours go into practicing and training so when something goes wrong even I tend to be a little disappointed for the rider. Equestrian riding is almost an art with the subtle ways in which they guide and instruct the horse. There are no verbal commands just fine control of the reigns, stirrups and seating position of the riders. There may be more and I’m happy to be corrected if there are.

So take the difficulty of equestrian competition and place a twist into the mix, with the twist being two horses doing the same routine at the same time. Oh yes and with a maximum of 20% of the allotted time spent apart with the other 80% of the routine side by side, around the arena.

I saw this “Pairs” riding for the first time on Sunday and was totally impressed with the four groups of competitors who took part in their respective groups. The look of concentration was clear for all to see on their faces throughout the routines, with the elation of finishing what they obviously knew was a solid routine visible too.

As a photographer this was no different to any other equestrian event I shoot with just one exception, capturing the 2 horses in complete harmony and literally mirroring each other step for step. Now that sounds easy yet I assure you it isn’t. This actually happens only a few times in any routine owing to all the turning and change of step etc. Ideally, so one pair told me, they have 2 horses of the same size etc etc. As this is not too easy to find at club level you tend to get one horse which is slightly bigger than the other. This is like having one tall human walk alongside a smaller human and expected to walk stride for stride for 8 minutes. It rarely happens but thats the image they want capturing.

Knowing my strides and turns I was able to second guess when the pairs were likely to come together in that perfect harmony moment. Even then only two of the four actually achieved this whilst travelling in a direction that gave a suitable image. Standing and watching this happen as they trotted away down the arena, away from you with bums and backs onshore, is rather demoralising. In those instances you simply capture what you can from the opportunities given when they are correctly positioned in their line of travel.

The day for us was great with the lovely weather and a few cool drinks to boot. With many of the competitors asking about images we also hoped for a good response with the galleries which I am pleased to say has actually been superb. We have also received several messages complimenting the quality of our images.

I know, from a riding friend, that a lot of the local clubs either use someone they know i.e. a rider or parent for photography, with some clubs having serious amateur or even alleged professionals shooting them. Now I am not here to slag anyone off so I will just say that a lot of these  images tend to be somewhat lacking in technical ability.

On Sunday and ,as an example of this, we had a very ice lady who came to stand near us to photograph several different horses, all from one club. She quite openly declared herself as the club photographer, for those horses, and was most impressed with our setup and the way we conducted ourselves. After the first horse she captured, someone came over and asked her to turn the camera flash off. She had a Canon DSLR, with pop up flash, the camera set to auto and was just clicking away happily with the flash trying to doing its thing against the sun. She asked for some advice and I suggested changing the settings to either TV or AV and adjusting those to shoot what she wanted. She admitted to having not much of a clue so I showed her two options that would improve the images shot and, more importantly, not require flash. Did she listen …. nope she went to the other end of the arena so the sun was more to the side of her. Oh well you try and help lol.

So the images we took. I’m going to keep this down to the usual couple of images I like to add at the end of a post.

If you would like to see the days images click here – Cecil Paul Studios Equestrian Galleries

Image One :

The one where it all comes together, just at the right time, right angles, riding positions and just togetherness. Riding like this for an 8 Minute routine is not easy.

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Image Two :

When you just know it was excellent. The elation at completing a quality equestrian pairs routine. I do believe these two ladies came first and thus through to the national finals.

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The year certainly kicked off in style and other than the first weekend we were booked for all subsequent weekends. Year on year this was a large increase as have been the bookings for the entirety of 2017. We either have odd days on a weekend spare or no space at all until the second week in December. Word of mouth has seen us be snapped up over several regions and now with the equestrian work a weekend off will be rare. We have however reached agreement that for 2 weeks in August I will not take any bookings and leave 2 weeks empty as agreed in 2016.

The middle two weekends were both gymnastics with the North West BSGA Zonal Qualifiers followed by the North West NDP Individual & team qualifiers. Both huge weekends for not only ourselves but those involved I would say some 800-1000 competitors were involved over each weekend. A massive undertaking for both organisers and ourselves which I am pleased to say ran smoothly for both sides.

We now offer some new versions of our popular event montages which have gone down well. Maintaining prices at £10-£25 depending on how many images are chosen we have simply mixed the orientation of imagery that can be selected. This has allowed imagery such as team photo’s that tend to be landscape in orientation to be mixed with action images that tend to be in portrait orientation. Further options are currently being trialled for offerings.

January ended up being our busiest January for the last five years. It also yielded the highest take and subsequent conversion to profit too. With repeat bookings for next January we can hopefully rely on a good start to 2018 also.

This blogs image is a triple montage from one of the gymnastics events.

Jan 17

 

New up were the NW Championships held at Wigan’s Robin Park Arena. The Arena and indeed the centre as a whole is superb with some excellent facilities.

It’s only downfall for us is the dismal lighting afforded in the the main hall. Rows of old failing strip lights adorn the ceiling with many having long since expired from this life whilst others make last ditch attempts at lighting the floor like distant stars burning out never to be seen again. We have made enquiries as to if the lighting is on the agenda to be changed yet sadly, as with most things council run, until we are basically holding competitions by candle light there is no plan or indeed funding to replace these lights.

An easy comparison as to how poor the lighting has got is to compare it to a more updated lighting hall. An example of this is in Hull and having recently had a complete lighting change to new strip lights allows us a shutter speed of 1/500th sec at f2.8 and a very credible indoor ISO of 1000. This allows us to capture all the action with lovely stills and quality exposures which require very little in their post event processing. To compare we are pushing the limits at Robin Park with a reduced shutter speed of 1/400th sec at f.28 yet a whopping ISO of 5000. Now I won’t begin on how increasing ISO and reducing shutter speed affects exposure values and stops of light etc as I will assume most of you know. With that knowledge you will understand that we are thus pushing boundaries with the quality of printing. Yes things can be modified and “improved” in Photoshop but it’s always nice to simply take a correctly exposed image, at quality settings which require little doing to them. Post production requires constant white balance corrections dependant on where in the hall we shoot from owing to the vast difference in lighting quality across this single ceiling of light.

The event as always was a roaring success for all involved, with the added bonus of Olympic Trampoline Silver Medallist Bryony Page turning up to talk with the competitors and also present some of the medals at the close of the event. To be fair she was an absolute star even though the onslaught of kids wanting a signature or selfie with her was relentless. I’ve seen some so called stars who can be quite off with hoards of kids yet Bryony simply soaked it all up like a true professional. Nothing was too much and it took her being rescued by one of the organisers to give her a break from it all.

Some 400+ competitors and the associated swathes of parents and family there to watch made for an excellent day.

For us it was another 5500 images, a queue long after the event had finished and home for 2130hrs.

The image below shows the afternoon medal winners with Bryony and the bouquet of flowers she was presented with. The full image was somewhat larger and included all the judges for the day.

NW Champs

The beginning of October saw us covering the third and final Kingston League trampoline  event in East Yorkshire.

This is a typical localised event which garners around the 150 entrants mark for a days competition. As with all local events this gives the newcomers a chance on the big stage in front of their peers and those more used to competition a chance to battle for honours against just team or school mates.

This event has been held at a local school for the last two years sine Hull City banished all the local amateur clubs from the Arena. In some ways this was indeed detrimental owing to the smaller space and subsequent lack of seating. For us however it was actually an improvement. Quite simply the lighting is superb, new and ever so bright. If every indoor event location we worked at had this amount of lumens emanating from the roof lights we would be happy people. Shooting at our usual hight shutter speeds we are using low iso’s that are simply unattainable at even so called prestigious locations such as the Velodrome in London.

All in all a low key event but great fun to be had by all involved.

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