Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Shoot Story - Doncaster

I never thought I'd see the day when I'd say - "I had a great time doing a photo shoot in Doncaster". But d'you know what, I enjoyed it!

The photo shoot for the "Up the Don" Cycling Active Escape feature was done shortly before I left the UK to start my job in Milan, so it needed to be done crisply and efficiently as I was short on time and had a lot of things to wrap up before leaving London.

While on my way to Hull I stopped off at Doncaster and thought I'd check out the route between connecting trains. By having the route nailed it was helpful for Higg the photographer for when we returned there to do the actual shoot the following day. It was a nice day for it. Considering it was February we were grateful for this small mercy in the north of England at that time of year!

I must say, everyone goes on about Donny being not up to much, but really there's quite a bit going on there. Stepping out of the station the shopping centre looked lively with its high street shops. Once you look beyond the numerous pawn brokers, pound shops and push chairs it's a town centre like any other!

Getting away from it all to countryside was surprisingly easy. I rode to a place called Bentley and within 3 miles of the town centre we was on the Trans Pennine Trail - a long distance cycle trail that runs from Hornsea to Stockport and passes through South Yorkshire. This trail formed a large part of the feature for Cycling Active.

The funny thing about doing a recon of a route is that when I do them I ride along and I record verbal notes that will help with my write-up. This means that I ride at a slow pace.

It was a little embarrassing when Yorkhire folks, who naturally like to stop and chat, asked me if I was riding the full Trans Pennine Trail. And laden with all my panniers for a weekend away, I replied that I was going to Conisbrough - just 5 miles away!

The following morning Higg and I returned to the Trans Pennine Trail beside the River Don to do the shoot.

As it was another sunny day there were lots of local cyclists out, many on mountain bikes. A group of riders appearing to recognise us said - "Are you guys from Cycling Weekly?" We replied yes - or at least its sister publication. "Aye, I recognise you, I've seen your photos." Wow, how I was flattered to be known in Doncaster!

Later on, while Higg was taking photos of the sign boards some non-cycling locals chuckled at us. "By heck, how sad is that taking photos of sign boards!"

Sprotborough Lock proved to be a rather busy area to photograph as lots of families were out walking with their children and their dogs. The canal path was narrow and people were happy to give way to me as I was being photographed riding up and down, but they did get somewhat bemused when I was being repeatedly photographed on different sections, which to them just seemed to be "the same as the last place!" I guess it's only the photographer who sees those subtle differences!

At Conisbrough Viaduct the path rose up very steeply, and many locals riding up it struggled to make it up the slope in the saddle. I too had been reduced to walking up it when I had all my luggage with me in my panniers. But on shoot day with my un-laden bike I was able to ride up the 15% climb. The trick was to ride gracefully and not look like it was a difficult task for me. Not only did I have to do this for the sake of producing a decent photo, but I also wanted to keep my dignity in front of the curious passers by watching to see if I was a proper cyclist! Thankfully I passed the test.

South Yorkshire has been associated with industry and the coal mines for so many years that that's the image that is conjured up in my mind. However, mining has been all but finished since the late 80s and in fact the landscape has since been given an extensive makeover.

That was what I found to be a pleasant surprise during our travels. We went through Bentley, Sprotbrough, Conisbrough (which was also pretty hilly), Cadeby, High Melton and Cusworth. Along our way we passed through nature reserves, woodland, farmers' fields and a small country park, as well as Cusworth Hall - an impressive looking mansion. It was a fun day out and judging by the photos in the magazine feature I'd say we could have done a lot worse than go to Doncaster for a photoshoot!



photos by Higg

 
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