Snapped In Scotland

ONE of the subjects this fine website covers is photography, and trials photography in particular. It’s not visited very often, but the subject brings in enquiries from time to time and I always take a look.

I’ve been interested in photography ever since I was 14 – and that’s many, many years ago. My very first camera was a Baldamatic, a German make that was notorious for its poor quality, yet that camera which has now gone to the great camera collection in the sky never gave me any trouble. I used to take black and white pictures at trials, only 20 on a 20 exposure film, for I could not afford a 36 ex film!, and I used to develop and print them myself at home in the family bathroom. My dad made a hardboard screen to go in the bathroom window and I had all the kit necessary. I used to sell the pictures to riders at trials for 2/6d, and believe it or not, sad that I am, I was doing exactly the same on Good Friday, selling pics I had taken at recent trials to riders.

What’s changed? The price for one, they are £2 now and they are in colour and 46 years have passed, but the riders still like them, I still like photography and of course cameras and systems have changed beyond all recognition.

When I left school at just turned 16, with one O Level (Metalwork) I went straight into Dixons camera shop in Slough; no qualifications, no experience but bags of enthusiasm and I stayed with Dixons, when it was a proper camera shop, for several years before branching out into other forms of employment. (Incidentally, the very first article I wrote was for Amateur Photographer with a picture taken when I was invited to a James Bond film shoot).

But my enthusiasm for photography has never waned and though I have never spent much on the hobby, which of course has also formed much of my employment, it has provided a great sense of satisfaction.

Many folks sneer at pictures, almost embarrassed when they see themselves captured on film (or pixel as it is now), but I say this: a photograph frequently has little significance until it is five years old. Then, it becomes important. Folks look at a picture in awe, for in five years much has changed and the snap frequently assumes much greater significance than it ever did at the time it was taken.

In my time I have taken many memorable photos, but once taken, published and filed, I look to the next. Until relatively recently I was a film person and had no time for digital, but you have to progress with trends (for if you didn’t, we’d all still be driving Morris Minors around), and about three years ago I took the plunge and bought my first digital camera. That led to a second, part-exchanged for a third and just last week I bought a fourth.

With the Scottish soon upon us, it was at the 1996 SSDT, the last one in which I took part, that I first came across a digital camera. The observer, Wick, a Canadian who came across to observe the trial for many years, showed me his digital camera as I arrived at his section. Virtually unaware of what they were or how they worked, Wick enthusiastically explained that it had 1 million pixels, and the quality was fantastic. The LCD screen was tiny and the shutter lag horrendous, but he was convinced it was the way forward.

I remember showing an obvious lack of enthusiasm at the time, and recall saying that “it will never replace film”! That’s a comment about as famous as me saying Mart Lampkin will never leave Bultaco, a week before he moved to SWM, but that’s another story.

We now know that digital has all but replaced film, the quality is genuinely fantastic; 6,7,8 and even 10 mega pixels are commonplace on even the smallest of cameras, and long gone are the hours in a darkroom, producing nothing more than an average monochrome print.

Anyone can now take a picture and if their computer is switched on, produce a superb colour print in less than three minutes. Simple as that. I did intend to expand further on cameras etc, but perhaps that would be too boring.

Enough of cameras, what about trials?

Went to the Ian Pollock Trial last Sunday at Kinlochleven. I’ve been promising myself a ride up there for years, and finally made it. Two of us travelled up early (sparrow parp!) on Sunday morning, rode the trial and went home, all in the one day. Was it worth it? You bet. Two laps, 23 sections of genuine SSDT territory, with even a couple of proper Scottish sections thrown in. Lots of Brits there and lots of Scotsmen. In fact it was a real trial and I’ll be back for more next year – that’s if trialling as we know it still exists.

I’m not being a scaremonger, but I had a brief chat with Mark Whitham, the Scottish clerk of the course. He was finalising this year’s trial details and all looks well. He volunteered the information that he had been looking at new routes, but kept on coming up against the old problem of planning a good route, getting permissions, then one landowner deciding to say no which frequently put the kybosh on what could have been a good, new route.

However, I firmly believe that the SSDT is in very good hands, and whilst there is never any guarantee the trial will continue for ever, so many people want it to happen that it should be safe for a while yet. And that has to be good news.

It’s not far away now, so I expect this site will get all enthusiastic about the Scottish. I will too as once again I’ll be there to gather material for the various outlets that kindly
accept my contributions.

I think this column has settled down a bit now, I’ve covered lots of different subjects and will continue to vary the words as I see fit at the time. That was my brief from Andy and I’m happy with that. What I do find suprising is how different subjects bring in comments. It’s almost impossible to fortell what will bring forth lots of responses; I don’t try to be controversial, just write it as I see it at the time. But whatever you think, it really is good to read everything and I really appreciate the remarks made.