How’s that ?

People often ask me how I became a press photographer, so this is my story.

When I left my local grammar school I was considered a bit of a failure.  I was 18 years old with a couple of A-levels that were no real use to anyone and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I was not going to Oxford, Cambridge or some other University like most of my former classmates.

Evening News & Star cricket report by Keith RichardsonI loved sport and I lived for the summer months when I could represent my town in the local cricket team.  I was never good enough to make a living from sport, but that was the highlight of my week and not much else mattered.

As the new school year approached I made a last minute gesture and secured a place on an Industrial Design Engineering course at Teesside Poly, exchanging the beautiful Lake District for ‘smog city’ otherwise known as Middlesbrough.  Teesside Poly must have been even more desperate than me because they let someone who cannot draw onto a design course !

England hero Ben Stokes celebrates with Adam LythI stuck with the course for a couple of terms during which time I had to buy a camera.  A student friend called Dave Newell taught me how to process film and print in black and white. I was now hooked on photography, industrial design was never going to work for me so I quit.

I returned to Lake District in time for the cricket season and starting taking my camera along to our games.  One of my team mates, Keith Richardson, wrote the cricket reports for our local paper.  He suggested I let him have a picture of the opposition team each week and he used it alongside his article.  Teams looked forward to playing Keswick because they got their pictures in the paper.  These were my first published pictures and this very basic ‘portfolio’ helped me obtain a place on the NCTJ press photography course in Sheffield.

The wonderful game of cricket has been a major influence on my life and I wonder where I would be had I not started playing.  Over the years I have photographed many test matches, my highlight being the World Cup Final in 1992 when England lost to Pakistan.  I had been with the England team in New Zealand and had some fabulous times in the company of the players.

England's Joe Root catches RodgersThis years I covered the most incredible Ashes Test at my local Trent Bridge ground, with Australia bowled out for only 60 on the first day (see pics).  It was brilliant to photograph another former Cumbrian, Ben Stokes, star alongside Joe Root and Stuart Broad.

I have been very lucky and doors have opened at the most surprising times.  People like Dave, Keith and many more were a great help along the way.  Education may seem like the most important thing at times but meeting wonderful people certainly helped me along the way.

 

Join the crowd in the Radcliffe Road stand and take a 360 degree look around Trent Bridge during the 4th Ashes Test between England and Australia.  Click the arrow on the image below

 

Note:  Keith Richardson now writes wonderful books about the Lake District, you can check them out by clicking here

 

People of England, your tree needs you

I had a challenging assignment last week at the home of the legendary Nottingham outlaw Robin Hood.  Deep in the not so greenwood of a Sherwood Forest winter stands the iconic Major Oak.  My idea was to ‘paint’ the tree with red light to add some drama and promote the ongoing European Tree of the Year campaign.

Major Oak England's Tree of the Year

The shots were taken at dusk and I used several Nikon speedlights to illuminate the tree controlled by Pocket Wizard radio slaves.  I do admit photographing an English oak tree at it’s best in February is not ideal, but a press photographer has to adapt to the situation.

Even the famous outlaw Robin Hood (Ade Andrews) and Maid Marion (Sylvia Robson) joined me to back England’s campaign to crown the Major Oak as the 2015 European Tree of the Year.  The competition is a bit like the tree version of football’s champions league.  Major Oak had to win the English tree of the year title last year to qualify.

With an online public vote taking place throughout February, sweethearts Robin and Marian have teamed up with Nottinghamshire County Council and the Woodland Trust to back the Major Oak in the bid for European glory.

Robin Hood appealed for support saying: “It is about the love of the English landscape and this amazing ancient oak. Please get behind this campaign and vote for the Major Oak !”

Councillor John Knight from Nottinghamshire County Council, added: “The Major Oak touches people’s hearts and their imagination. It is one of the most iconic and best known trees in the world and it would be a fitting tribute if it could win this European award.”

The tree weighs an estimated 23 tons, has a girth of 33 feet (10 metres), and is about 800–1000 years old.  It can be visited in the heart of Sherwood Forest Country Park near Edwinstowe.  The visitor centre is about 20 miles north of Nottingham and the area is part of Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve.

Because of the oak’s national importance, conservation measures have been carried out since 1908.  Initially metal chains were used to support its weighty branches and lead sheet attached to protect the trunk.  These were replaced in the late 1970’s by large wooden struts.  Today, slender steel poles prop the sprawling limbs of this forest giant.  Tree surgeons check the oak periodically and carry out remedial work as required.

According to folklore its hollow trunk was used as a hideout by Robin Hood’s merry men.  But if Robin was active in the 12th or 13th century, as legend suggests, this tree would only have been a sapling.  So it must have been another, much older oak that hid the outlaw.  It a still a great story and why should a few facts spoil things.

I also produced an interactive 360 degree view of the location to let you join us at the site.  To see the 360 degree panorama of this fabulous tree click on the image below then use your mouse to adjust your view.

 

To vote in the Environmental Partnership Organisation contest click here before 28 February.

Road Trip

This summer I spent a few weeks travelling around central and western Canada in an attempt to catch up with some ‘long lost’ members of my family.  My grandmother lived on Vancouver Island for many years, emigrating before I was born, and it is a regret that I was never able to visit her before she died.

Mail Plus Drumheller, CanadaStarting in Calgary we headed north towards Edmonton with a small diversion to the fabulous Drumheller Hoodoos in the Alberta Badlands.  This is dinosaur country and the Red Deer River valley is also known as Dinosaur valley.

The highway leading through the town passes the World’s largest fibreglass dinosaur, standing 86 feet tall, as you cross the river.  Just north of the town you find the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology which has to be seen to be believed, it houses a fantastic collection of dinosaur remains.

Moving north again via Edmonton we headed for the world’s first UFO landing pad at the town of St Paul.  Unfortunately we arrived on the Canada Day public holiday and so all the visitors must have been busy celebrating elsewhere.

UFO Landing Pad, St Paul, CanadaThis incredible concrete structure was built as a centennial project in 1967, at the height of the space race, in an effort to attract both tourists and ‘Martians’ to the town.  The pad consists of a raised platform with a map of Canada made from stones provided by each province of Canada and a visitors centre.

A sign at the pad reads: “The area under the World’s First UFO Landing Pad was designated international by the Town of St. Paul as a symbol of our faith that mankind will maintain the outer universe free from national wars and strife. That future travel in space will be safe for all intergalactic beings, all visitors from earth or otherwise are welcome to this territory and to the Town of St. Paul.”

Next stop was the hamlet of Wabasca.  This is within the wonderfully named Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17 and located beside the North and South Wabasca Lakes, approximately 75 miles northeast of Slave Lake.  Wabasca has a population of about 3,500 which is largely native Canadian including Indian reserves of the Bigstone Cree Nation and this includes my uncle Bruce and his family.

Bruce Rathbone looks at the collapsed highwayBruce emigrated from England in the 1940’s and still runs the tyre garage in the town even though he is 80 years old.  Over the years he became a well respected member of the community, so much so that they named the fire hall after him in recognition of his years of service.

During our stay the travel plans had to be adjusted after a beaver dam caused the main highway to collapse.  Luckily uncle Bruce was able to take me to the scene, past a couple of road blocks, to have a close look !

Despite a diversion followed by a long drive along the ‘Grizzly Trail’, where we saw no signs of any wildlife, we were soon heading into Jasper National Park.  A stunning cruise through the Rocky Mountains was followed by a trip along the Icefields Parkway towards Banff.

The wildlife and scenery were spectacular.  Within minutes of entering the national park we saw four elk paddling in the Athabasca River.  A river the width of some lakes in England.  Brown bears, black bears, deer, mountain goat and eagles appeared regularly as if they were booked to provide the tourists with photo opportunities.

Mail Plus Glacier SkywalkBrewster Travel made sure I had fantastic access to their latest tourist attraction, the newly built Glacier Skywalk.  Following a short bus ride from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre we reached the glass-floored observation platform 900 feet above the Sunwapta Valley.  Visitors walk out beyond the cliff edge for about 100 feet over the valley and Sunwapta River.  The stunning views show how the region has been shaped by immense glacial power.

Brewster Travel then took us on their Glacier Experience tour.  A massive Ice Explorer vehicle specially designed for glacial travel took us to the surface of the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Ice Fields.

Mail Plus Athabasca GlacierAn experienced driver-guide shared a wealth of  information about glaciers, icefields and their impact on our environment during the journey.  Passengers were allowed to step out onto the glacier and take in the most stunning alpine and glacial vistas and I got chance to shoot a quick 360 degree picture for Mail Plus.

Next stop was Banff and a trip up Sulphur Mountain, using Brewster Travel’s Banff Gondola, to see the spectacular panoramic view.  The summit ridge provides views both westward up and east down the Bow Valley.  There is a superb view of Banff and the world famous Banff Springs Hotel below.

There is also a path on the north side of the gondola station to the top of Sanson’s Peak (7,402 ft).  But, if you want to be picky, the true summit of Sulphur Mountain can be found on the southern side on a scrambler’s route.

Mail Plus Banff GondolaSulphur mountain has been the site of two research facilities.  A meteorological observatory building on Sanson Peak still exists and visitors can look through a window to see its interior complete with rustic furnishings.  A plaque marks the site of The Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, built by the National Research Council to study cosmic rays as part of Canada’s contribution to the International Geophysical Year in 1957.

The hot springs at the base of Sulphur Mountain are home to the endangered Banff Springs snail as well as a rather spectacular hotel.

The final part of our journey through the Rockies took us past the seasonal forest fires via the Saskatchewan River Crossing, which had to be evacuated the next day.  Apparently these fires are standard for a Canadian summer and an occupational hazard for the locals.

We arrived in the town of Sparwood, following in the footsteps of another distant relative who had emigrated to British Columbia to work in the mines in the early 1900’s.

Mail Plus Giant Truck, SparwoodThe local economy is still heavily dependent on coal mining, one of British Columbia’s primary industries.  A large part of the population either works in the mines or as tradesmen and labourers in related support industries, such as trucking or as mechanics.

Sparwood also happens to be the home of the world’s largest truck, a Terex 33-19 “Titan”.  This was built as a prototype off-highway, ultra class, rigid frame, three-axle, diesel/AC electric power train haul truck.  Designed by the Terex Division of General Motors and assembled at their Diesel Division’s London, Ontario assembly plant in 1973.

Only one 33-19 was ever produced and it was the largest, highest capacity haul truck in the world for 25 years.  After 13 years in service, the 33-19 was restored and is now preserved on static display as a tourist attraction in the centre of the town next to a car park.