Saturday, 21 May 2016

A Racy Ladies' Night

Ladies' Night... the races, that was how I spent my 'annual significant day' this year - how lovely and happy it was too. Nothing to spoil it, just a super time with some great friendly people.

Now this is the point where I'm supposed to reveal my knowledge of horse racing, This is also the point where I will hold my hands up and say, I know nothing! All I know is that I have enjoyed a couple of similar race events, courtesy of the same kind host. So this now being my third experience, you would have thought I might have got to know how things work when it comes to placing a bet, right?
Wrong! I know nothing! It is still like a secret code.

I'm not a betting person but our host had kindly bought a Tote ticket for all the ladies present - seeing as it was Ladies' Night and I thought it would be a shame to waste it. But what to choose? I knew there are bets to win, and each way bets, so I wisely decided to split the stake over three races. Recalling my first ever horse racing bet a few years previous, I had selected 'Dudley Docker' purely because of the name - and it came in as the winner. Beginners luck! Employing the same formula seemed like a good idea so I looked down the race card, with No 6 'The Tailgater' running in the first race appealing to me. The second race had just four runners and I thought my odds for picking the winner would be good (what do I know?), until someone pointed out that the odds on each horse were very poor and I should skip to the third race, where I chose No 5 'Put The Boot In' and finishing off the last of my bets on No 3 'Occasionally Yours' in the fifth race.

Winner of the 5.25 - The Tailgater

The 5.25 at Huntingdon got under way, racegoers watching on the big screen until the group of horses came into view at the far corner, then jumping two hurdles before coming alongside the grandstand where I swiftly trained my camera on No 6. This wasn't the sprint for the finish but was useful for panning practise, and the horses went round again. Now in the final furlong, my lens was once again trained on No 6, the five way image stabilisation in my Olympus E-M5ii coming into play as I tried to contain my excitement when I watched 'The Tailgater' completely contradict his name by coming in first, at the front.

My first win of the night! Call this win Birthday luck!

I had high hopes for race three with 'Put The Boot In' but sadly I ended up turning my attentions to watching the crowd as No 5 came tailgating in at the back of the pack.

Race five - The 7.30 and 'Occasionally Yours' seemed to be emanating from the tannoy with reassuring regularity and as the horses passed the grandstand for the first time, the lovely bay gelding was comfortably placed just back from the front position.

Down to the final furlong now, and the female jockey was inching 'Occasionally Yours' ahead of 'Rolling Dough'...

Winner of the 7.30 - Occasionally Yours

Striding for the finish and No 3 went over the line in first place, providing me with my second win of the evening. Hooray!

Time to wander off and to take a look around the parade enclosure, and collect my winnings. It is actually enough to buy myself a replacement bottle of my favourite perfume - I guess you could say it is indirectly a birthday gift from our host - Thank you Alan!

In the paddock, a pensive Sean Quinlan, a champion hunt jockey, was waiting for the start of The 8.00, the penultimate race of the evening.

Back alongside the rails, punters eagerly watched the race on the big screen in the now chill air of the evening, and just as the race came to its climax, the sun reappeared as if someone had switched on the stage lights, subtly back-lighting the runners as they galloped by.

The day and the evening had also galloped by, and with just one last race to round off the evening, this little mite couldn't quite stay awake to the end.

Our grateful thanks to Alan Woods at AJW Distribution  for a splendid evening.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Reportage Roundup - April

The last few weeks have been hectic to say the least!
So much so I've barely had a moment to keep the blog up to date, so apologies for a series of holding pages coming up and that will be completed as soon as I can.

For now enjoy a jolly shot of the BFG from the Manuden Scarecrow Trail back in April.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Butter Wouldn't Melt...

Over the years, many of you have come to know Mutt - my trusty photographer-assistant and to look at her now you would think butter wouldn't melt.

Sadly, the old girl is now nearing 15 years old, and with it has come traits that one would expect from a puppy. The long and the short of it is, she has a form of doggy-dementia. She has started bin dipping (ugh!), redistributing the contents of the recycling box and recently, she was caught stealing a sandwich from the work surface in our dog-sitters kitchen - oh the shame of it! She has never done this in the 14 years she has been part of our family, just as she has never run into the main road when walking her on The Common...until last week. Now that was a heart-stopping moment! However, one of the things she has always done is, if we leave her for a spell, she would find something of human ownership, often a slipper, and carry it off to her bed - her little den. This was quite an endearing trait of hers, although on one occasion it was himselfs phone, and another, his wallet, both manageably moved and yet both undamaged. On both occasions there were some perplexed expletives as to who had moved them?

Mutt asleep next to my camera bag - so tired after her little escapade!

Roll on to this morning and I had had to leave her downstairs whilst I carried out some tasks upstairs for about an hour. On returning to my study, I found mutt happily asleep on her rug which is snugly situated between my desk and the radiator. I noticed she had chosen to make a pillow from my lovely leather and canvas Olympus camera bag, which also happened to be temporarily next to my desk. I jokingly passed comment to her that it surely couldn't be very comfortable (Yes, we do talk to our dog!!) and I thought nothing more of it.

Time had now come for me to sit back at my desk to tackle the edit from the theatrical shoot I'd had in London yesterday, firstly loading the few hundred images off the memory card from my Olympus E-M10, then the memory card from the Olympus E-M5ii...wait! Where was my E-M5ii?!! It wasn't in my camera bag, where I thought it should be...maybe I was suffering temporary dementia? Had I left it on the kitchen table? As I walked into the kitchen my heart sank. There, next to mutts little doggy-den was my E-M5ii + 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens - all 1.5kg (and £1.5k+) of it! Eeeek!!!

I had presence of mind to snap a pic of it to show himself later, as he probably wouldn't believe me if I told him, and then I swiftly scooped it up from the floor, checking it over for teeth marks - not one!! The only mark I could find was a scratch on one edge of the lens hood, consistent with it being dragged the 10 metres or so along a quarry-tiled floor. I can only assume she had carried it with the strap in her mouth (she does something similar with her own lead too). A quick switch on and everything appeared to be in order - thankfully.

All I can say is that Mutt the Assistant must also be delighted with the lightened load that the OM-D offers - I couldn't have seen her managing my DSLR equivalent in the same way!  Tomorrow I fly back to Ireland to host my last West Cork Photography Break of the spring season. Gone are the days of the whole of my hand luggage allowance being used up with my much larger DSLR kit. I will travel, as I often do, with just hand luggage. This will include all of my OM-D cameras and lenses, as it has done for the past year or so since switching kit.  My back is loving the much lightened load and the bag has room to spare.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

May Day Morris Dancing

This morning the alarm was set for before dawn, to ensure we arrived at Wandlebury, just outside Cambridge, in time to see the dawn Morris Dancing by the Devil's Dyke Morris Men on this May Day morning. The day when tradition has it to roll in the dewy grass, although today the dew was of the white crunch variety.

(This is the holding page to ensure a 1st May date on the blog post and whilst the rest of the edit is completed in between a full weekend of assignments. Do come back later for the full set of images)