Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Shoot Story - The Chilterns

My ride story on cycling around Great Missenden is in the current issue of Cycling Active magazine (The Dahling of the Chilterns, Cycling Active - January 2012).
The story's not bad if I don't mind saying (!). What I like best though is the "Big Picture" feature in the opening pages of the magazine. This month the photo chosen for that feature was one taken during the photo shoot for that ride story. Andy Jones, the snapper on the day did a great job on the photo and, what seemed like a rather tedious job at the time actually turned out very well.

The other photos featured in the article also look good too. So, with that in mind I thought I would put in a few memories of the day.
The ride was originally meant to take place one Thursday in October, but typically that was the one day that week when it poured with rain. Thankfully both Andy and I were able to rejig our schedules to do it the following day, which turned out to be lovely and sunny. Bad weather is one of the main occupational hazards when doing ride story photo shoots.

I arrived at Great Missenden train station feeling really good that I was going to do a shoot on a swish stylish new bike that my peers weren't riding. I had new cycling clothes, kindly sent to me by the cycling mag. I felt good in myself - and the sun was shining.

When I met Andy he told me straight away that my drop handlebars had been raised too high and it made my bike look stupid. He also said that one of the other writers had exactly the same bike and had been riding his for a few months. So I wasn't riding anything that original!

Like with other photo shoots, I had already recc'ed the area so I knew where to go for the shots. Our first spot was Great Missenden High Street, which had lovely quaint houses. When I had previously been there the road was nice and quiet - ideal for a country village shot. In fact on the day of the shoot it was not much worse than Piccadilly Circus! For a small high street there was alot going on. Even worse, it was the Friday of half-term school holidays and we were trying to get photos of the main attraction - the Roald Dahl museum.
Loads of kids were out with their parents going to visit the museum or its cafe. Some people politely stopped to allow Andy to take the shot of the building, but then a delivery van or a 4 x 4 or an Audi driven by a lady who lunches would pass by so everything was scuppered.

To get the shot I needed to wait, parked on my bike some distance from the cafe ready to quickly ride by and be photographed riding in front of the museum when the road is clear.
The folks who only saw me but not Andy must have thought I was a bit odd, just waiting on a bike in anticipation of something that wasn't actually apparent.
The folks who only saw Andy must have thought he was even odder. A bloke with 2 large cameras hanging from his neck, loitering around opposite a kid's venue! I assumed he had his explanation properly lined up if a police officer came along!

A man in one of the nearby shops came out and started chatting to Andy about photography. Andy, naturally very into his subject, talked quite knowledgably and enthusiastically and it was quickly apparent that the bloke didn't know much at all about this art. After a short while the man went back to his business. I guess he was just sussing out Andy, and the "conversation on photography" had been a pretext.


We finally got our pictures, thankfully without needing too many takes, and we moved on to the next part of the route.

Along many of the roads around Great Missenden are large "No HS2" posters giving out different messages of protestation to the Government. In case you don't know, plans are underway to route a high speed railway line from London to Birmingham straight through the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Looking at how beautiful the area looked on this autumn day it's hard to believe that anyone would want to destroy such an idyllic area. There are lots of nice cycling and walking trails (including the historic Ridgeway long distance trail) plus nature reserves. It would be a terrible shame to dig all this up.
On our travels through the woods we got chatting to local walkers and residents who highlighted the situation to us. Once they knew we were taking pictures for a magazine they encouraged us to take photos of the area to show the public what we would lose if this "monstrosity" were given the green light. One woman was prepared to give her name and be quoted in the article. Sadly, this didn't actually fit the brief of what we were doing.
Andy did take some great shots of the area and the beauty of the Chilterns certainly comes out in the feature. So if you look at the article, look hard at the pictures and enjoy them - who knows how much longer this will exist....

One of the conundrums of doing a shoot off-road is that you want to look stylish and neat on your bike in the photos, but in reality people don't look so well manicured when off road - especially when riding through muddy trails!

On a shoot with Andy we often just take photos in one area, dismantle the bike, put it in Andy's car and then drive to the next place. On this ride, I didn't think it was worth going through that palava just to drive relatively short distances so I rode to the different areas and arranged to meet Andy at the given spots.

Embarrassingly, in my wisdom I took one off-road trail that I thought would be a nice short cut. The trails we had been on that day were clear and dry. Sadly, this one wasn't. I got caught up in lots of brambles, it was extremely muddy and in parts the trail was too steep for me to ride. I ended up walking through the muddy trails and getting my hands cut on the brambles. When I met Andy in the next village my legs and shoes were all muddy and I was covered in catkins!

Also, the lovely new bike was not looking so swish and stylish anymore! This probably didn't impact on the shoot for this particular feature as we were at the end of the first session. The problem was the photos taken during the afternoon session were for another story that would be predominantly on road. So that won't look so good! Hopefully the picture editors will be able to salvage something decent. All the fun of a photo shoot!

Photos by Andy Jones
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