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Saturday, 4 January 2014

Memoir of an aspirant photo journalist

My magazine editor brother advises me that misfortunes make more interesting reading than purple passages about nature. If a nauseating photo of a gashed leg or the like can be included, so much the better. Remember photographer Hurley with Shackleton - his cumbersome photo plates were one of the few things salvaged from the stricken ship. His presence of mind had provided a priceless record of dramatic events, although the main motivation for saving them came from Shackleton’s awareness of their potential commercial value later - he would have made a good journalist.

That’s all very well, but I am a bumbling, non-instinctive amateur, and dealing with the emergency usually takes priority, although I have had my moments.

Because of waterlogged fields, last Thursday I routed our walk again on Tarmac, but included one section of what OS defines as “track”, that is an unsurfaced lane varying from a well found, hardcore Land Rover highway to a little used medieval mudfest often blocked by brambles and nettles. Even the supremos of the OS have so far been unable to represent those differences. You therefore rely on experience and intuition.


Within a few yards of leaving the Tarmac I knew experience and intuition had failed me - we were squelching and slip-sliding along a mud path, which eventually widened into a mini flood-lake thirty yards across and fifty yards long with no obvious circumvention short of climbing several walls and barbed wire fences. Undoubtedly an impasse. Sod’s Law had located this well beyond the point of no return.  Here we go: with the distraction of formulating Plan B, I took no photos. There was not much comparison with the scale of Shackleton’s drama, but I was so cross with myself when it dawned on me quarter of a mile later. Would Hurley have gone back? Well, he would never have missed that opportunity in the first place.

Zoom to Whitestone Crag near Newby Bridge. A minor crag where my old climbing partner Tony had the only fall I can remember for him. Fortunately it was not serious, but once again I took no photo.

A unique seating facility at Field Broughton built for the millennium

Just for the story herewith. My cut vein when I fell descending Nan Bield Pass on my walk from Lowestoft to The Lakes in 2009

8 comments:

The Crow said...

The last photo took me by surprise and I felt all the nerves in my belly tighten in sympathetic pain...an automatic response I've never learned to control.

That was a nasty cut, Conrad, even from where I sit. Glad you are well past it.

Blonde Two said...

Well done for remembering one important gory photo. I have similar regret about having no photos of my rather impressive looking ankle fracture. Some kind person did take some of my helicopter ride though.

The point of no return - last time I met a puddle like that, I had to hold the hand of a 15 year old lad to help me through it. I think we were both a bit embarrassed!

bowlandclimber said...

Lots of photos of feet recently!!
I think back to many hairy episodes climbing or walking and realise - no photos. Must be part of the panic and concentrate scenario, we are still alive but no photo to scare our friends. What you need is a professional film team [Hurley would be ideal] following you to capture all those moments.
Glad you survived your Shackleton experience.

Roderick Robinson said...

The bloody blood has almost gone for nothing. Consider carrying a tripod next time.

Sir Hugh said...

The Crow - You have gifted me the chance to tell the rest of that story which I avoided in the post in the interests conciseness and relativity.

The original plan was for a sort of furthest east to furthest west in England starting in the Norfolk Broads on the coast at Lowestoft and finishing on the Lake District coast at St. Bees Head, and would have been titled Lowestoft to St Bees Head.

I was able to walk out in great discomfort after the fall several miles to Ullswater, but further progress was not possible after it had swollen that night and the plan was aborted two days from the end. The walk was re-christened The Broads to The Lakes.

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Blonde Two - That's an enviable bit of upwomanship referring to your helicopter ride - many would envy having such in their outdoor activity cv seeing it as a mandatory item for a comprehensive version. The non attainees will see it like they who have done all the Munros except the Inaccessible Pinnacle which they regard as beyond their abilities.

I bet the fifteen year old will have the pleasure of that incident in his memory bank for the rest of his life.

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bowlandclimber - As a non-superman climber of hills and crags I have often kidded myself that I was emulating the greats when safely pretending that I needed to kick steps in a very gentle snow slope, or imagining that I am doing the first ascent of a n E9 when I'm actually on a benign diff.

What is the prognosis for your foot recovery? I have still got those awkward geocaches waiting for you.

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RR - You are never satisfied. I will start carrying a bottle of artificial blood - less heavy than a tripod.

gimmer said...

Did you wade through the field, as of yore - and Scotland . . . not, though, if it was a raging torrent!

I cannot really imagine your equanimity when, scrabbling to take that potentially valuable picture of a developing drama, one fails to save the limb or life of the victim: follow the money, never mind the shame and the black page in the Golden Book.
Maybe, one muses this crisp and calm morn, why one doesn't, why you are a man of action, not primarily an observer - and perhaps why the current popular haste to immortalise distress is so distasteful: mental images yes, silver (or silicon) no!
Is the pen mightier than the pixel?
Perhaps others of your acolytes might be tempted to discuss.

Sir Hugh said...

Gimmer - the solving of the problem was irrelevant to the gist of the story I wanted to tell, but for your information we did not wade through. If I had been on my own I might have done, but Pete was certainly not prepared to do that. We retraced several hundred yards and took an alternative path across some fields

As for the morality of snapping misfortunes etc I agree with your analysis of me - it is not instinctively in my nature, but since I started the blog I have become much more conscious of finding an angle to put into a post about a walk other than a description of route and scenery, but humanitarian actions would come first where required.

As for supporting written descriptions against photographic I’m not sure. The BBC usually stops short of showing the ultimate part of someone being executed or otherwise killed, but I see nothing wrong with showing pictures of a train crash for example, where most relatives or friends of victims would rather see what had happened than being left wondering. Many people have a limited attention span at reading a long written description - brother RR (journalist) reckons the average is about 300 words. This reply is 205 words.

Blonde Two said...

Sir Hugh: We used to walk with an amazing chap with legends a-plenty about Dartmoor happenings. As we marched past the accident site one year (something I can't do without a shiver) it made me almost glad it had happened, when I realised that I had become one of his legends.

Bizarre, but you are right, I am very proud of both the accident and the fact that I am still out walking Dartmoor.