EXERCISE – NARRATIVE PICTURE ESSAY
For this exercise I was required to set myself an assignment and, through the use of 5 to 15 photographs, tell a story of an event or an activity. A planned visit with my partner to the Spring Cup National Road Races at the Oliver’s Mount circuit at Scarborough gave me an ideal opportunity for a photo-shoot for this Exercise, but never having been to such an event before I did not know what to expect. My initial thought was to get an overall general impression of the story of the weekend in pictures, finding subjects as I went along. However, soon after arrival at the venue my partner and I got chatting to a competitor and TT veteran, Paul Owen, and his family who she had met previously and the idea germinated that I could interweave their personal story into the more general one of the weekend. They kindly agreed to co-operate and I thank them warmly for their patience and friendliness.
The Oliver’s Mount circuit is 2.4 miles long and is the only road race circuit in England. Operational as a motor bike race circuit since 1946, it is known as a technical and twisty track that requires a great deal of skill and bravery to tackle. The races are organised by the Auto 66 club who attract many big name riders from the current road racing scene including Ian Hutchinson, Guy Martin, Ryan Farquhar, Ian Lougher, John McGuinness, Chris Palmer, William Dunlop and sidecar ace Nick Crowe amongst many other lesser-known, but very skilled riders. Some of the races held here during the year are qualifiers for the famous Isle of Man TT events.
Paul Owen (Moz), a Welshman from Llangollen, is a very popular and highly respected rider within the road racing scene and is consistently amongst the top privateer teams in road racing. He has raced all over the U.K., including Ireland & the Isle of Man, and he has also raced in Belgium. He has 4 caps for his country, and has been captain of the Welsh team. He has won 5 championships and has held the lap and race records at 3 different tracks. In 2010, he was awarded the inaugural Spirit of the T.T. trophy for stopping to assist a fellow racer and friend, the late Paul Dobbs, who had crashed during a race.
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SPRING NATIONAL CUP, OLIVER’S MOUNT 2015
“You can sit on a bike travelling at 200mph or you can sit on your sofa
watching Coronation Street. That’s the choice.” Paul Owen, road racer.
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The Owen family – Paul with Thomas (son), Debbie (wife) and Gerallt (father) – outside their mobile trailer, their home for the weekend.
Paul with friend and fellow racer Phil Harvey before the racing starts.
All the family helps with the preparations before the first race gets underway.
Debbie makes sure the protective clothing is ready while Paul and his Dad give one of the bikes a final check over before the practice sessions.
The practice sessions showed a problem with oil loss so a replacement gasket had to be found and fitted urgently.
Gleaming and tuned – the Yamaha FZR 750 and Honda RS 250 stand ready and waiting for the racing to start.
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Waiting on the grid for the start – a tense time for reflection for Paul.
Under starters orders ………..
……… and they’re off!
Paul races under Number 98, the number that his father used to race under in the Manx TT races.
Doing what he loves most – racing at speeds approaching 200 mph Paul tackles the bends and straights to push his way up the field ……..
…….and at these speeds there is the ever present risk of serious injury – or worse
Debbie sits in the family trailer while the race goes on. Alone with her thoughts, she and family members listen to the tannoy commentary on the races, dreading the possibility of hearing that there has been a ‘red flag’ incident.
Rider down ….. !
Paul’s mate Phil Harvey is unseated at the slippery Mere Hairpin. Thanks to his protective gear he was uninjured on this occasion. He even managed to repair the bike in time for the next race!
Safely over the finish line in a very creditable second place, Paul’s family can relax for a while until the next race. No relaxation for Paul though as he will be working on his bike to try to get that bit of extra performance out of it next time.
After the racing, Gerallt takes a moment to reminisce about his past as an Isle of Man TT road racer…….
……….. and Paul finds time to relax and wind down – on a bike of course!
While the winners of the various events receive accolades and glory from the crowd ……
…… Paul and the family pack the bikes and all the paraphernalia of racing back into the van ready to return home and prepare for the next meeting.
All packed and ready for home.
Looking forward to the next meeting in a fortnight!
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I learnt a great deal whilst completing this Exercise, both while taking the photographs at the race meeting and subsequently whilst compiling the Picture Essay. I will look at each experience separately.
Whilst at the meeting I first had to acquaint myself with the lay out of the track, the paddocks and the other infrastructure, the programme, the riders, and the method of operation so that I could plan my draft storyline, shooting locations, and range of potential subjects. The weather was very variable from sunshine to overcast and showers with strong winds, and the track and surroundings ranged from open space to dense tree cover. This meant that I had to take the constantly changing conditions into account when selecting camera settings and shooting positions. For the on-track action, I used telephoto zoom lenses, a Canon 100-400mm and sometimes a Canon 70 – 200mm and for the paddock shots I predominantly used a 24 – 70mm f2.8 zoom lens, the wide maximum aperture enabling me to shoot in low light conditions.
I found it necessary to remain constantly on the alert and flexible to ensure that I was able to take advantage of opportunities. I took in the region of 2,000 images during the weekend, many of them of different riders in action on the track or in the paddocks in case I subsequently decided to complete a larger project on the racing scene. As it happens I was able to supply a number of the riders with images of themselves in action which was a rewarding experience.
On starting to plan the photo story I decided that I had sufficient suitable images of Paul and his family to use them and their weekend as the focus of the Exercise. I first went through all the photographs I had taken, deleting those that were not up to standard and filing any of relevance to my storyline in a separate archive called ‘Paul Owen’. I then went through these archived images again to extract those that I considered were of sufficient quality and interest for further consideration and filed them in another archive entitled ‘Paul Owen Selected’. I then carried out some post-processing work on them where appropriate in Photoshop to enhance contrast, clarity, and other qualities and to crop or resize where necessary and then made a final selection to another archive file named ‘Paul Owen Final’. In practice, I found that these were not set in stone as I was making a few re-selections and new choices as the narrative picture essay took shape. I also found that I had to take some difficult decisions regarding image selection as I went along as I had to choose to leave out a number of interesting images that I had wanted to include in order to prevent the work from becoming too large and confused. As it is I have included 25 images in the photo essay instead of the required 15 and I hope that I will not be taken to task too much for this. There were certain elements and nuances of the story that I wanted to bring in and increasing the number of images to 25 allowed me to include at least some of them.
I experienced considerable difficulty with formatting the photo essay using the WordPress software in terms of positioning of text and images as I wanted and even after spending a great deal of time and frustration on it, there are still areas I am not happy with. I tried one or two other software options but did not know how I could upload the results to my blog so I stuck with WordPress.
I very much enjoyed the process of planning and completing this Exercise and I look forward to doing more such projects in the future.
My sincere thanks go to Paul and his family for allowing me to experience the weekend through their eyes and for their patience when I was pushing my lens and myself at them when they probably wanted to be on their own. I have great respect for them and what they do!
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