Sunday, 31 December 2017

Review of 2017

Wassailing - The Green Man

For one reason or another, it has been a few years since I last produced a review of the year, so I have kicked myself into touch and picked out some notable images from my assignments through the year. Working as a freelance photographer for the local press provides a very mixed bag, some shoots offering an interesting opportunity, others being much more mundane. However, all have the same goal of reporting the story or event to the readers either on line or in print. Working mostly with Archant, the pictures selected are often put straight into an on line news report in their complete form, with the print and e-editions appearing afterwards, by then, the pictures have been subjected to the harder cut. Thus some of the images selected here may have been used only on line, others making it into print. Some of the images made neither but I have deemed worthy of inclusion in this selection. Complete albums for each story can be accessed via the blue links found in the text.
I hope you enjoy this dip into my year.


I started 2017 with renewed hope for a fruitful year of work, so it seems appropriate to begin the review with an age-old ceremony which promotes a good apple harvest in the coming year. On a frosty, clear January night, I pulled myself away from a cosy fireside to join a group of Wassailers in Thaxted. Whilst we all may have heard the traditional carol of:

"Here we come a-wassailing Among the leaves so green" how many of us actually knew what Wassailing was?

Wassailers in Thaxted
When I had suggested to the newsdesk that I go and find out more about this tradition, they gave the kind of nod which meant even they were unsure what it was all about. We all learnt that this ancient tradition involved singing traditional songs, processing around the orchard whilst making loud noises on pots and drums before hanging pieces of toast on the apple trees. There was something rather gentle and magical about the evening with the orchard lit by torchlight - as well as the mulled cider spicing the air.
More images can be found here

Wassail on a cold January night

I was happy to go along to another traditional event which was running during January, as theatrical and stage photography is one of my interests too.
The Pantomime is always popular event in the Saffron Players calendar although the 2017 production of Sleeping Beauty almost ground to a halt when the Dame lost his  - erm sorry, her voice.

Dame capers - Sleeping Beauty Pantomime

Boo and Hiss at the Baddies

This meant that 'mime' really did become the order of the day with the dame miming the lines whilst the baddies side-kick saved the day and voiced the words via the mic system off-stage.

In February I was able to indulge in another stage performance, this time at the world class Saffron Hall, a facility shared with the local High School. Throughout the year, the students who study the performing arts put on shows as part of their syllabus and I am always amazed by the standard of performance coming from these youngsters.

Dance performance at Saffron Hall

Lone and Motion - Dance

As I mentioned, not all images I submit for an assignment are selected and this was one which would never make it into print by nature of it being black and white. I love the contrast of the motion with the lone dancer at the back of the forgive me for slipping it into the selection.

February also brought a couple of famous faces in front of my lens.

Grayson Perry

Sir Trevor Brooking

Grayson Perry happily appeared as himself whilst supporting family friend, Janet Dyson at the launch of her book about the Bardfield Artists.

Sir Trevor Brooking attended a testimonial match for Paul Daw, (not pictured) a former chairman of the local football club. Sadly, Paul Daw passed away shortly afterwards.

Listening carefully to instructions

Official events feature heavily in local press coverage and March saw the first in my year with a memorial service to those lost in 1945 on HMS Lapwing, a ship sponsored by the people of Saffron Walden.

91 years old and taking the salute

I salute this 91 year-old who took command of the proceedings because there was 'noone else to do it',

Stately Walk

Charity events are another regular feature of local press, with this charity dog walk raising funds for Support 4 Sight. Each participant was invited to pose for a souvenir shot in front of the impressive Audley End House, although I'm not sure this mutt did much walking! 

Now we have your attention...

 From dogs...
Duck Racing ducks.
I have covered the annual charity duck race held by Rayne Scouts a couple of times now. The event which can either be a steeplechase through the fields alongside the fast-flowing brook, trying to keep up with this mass of sweetcorn-like bath time buddies, or a long slow meander down the slow running brook, as it was in April this year.

Thaxted Morris Men

Long and slow can't be levelled at the Thaxted Morris Men with their bell-jingling and hankie-waving. An Easter gathering took place to mark the start of their Morris season, in an area of England famed for this traditional dancing.

Hankies and hats - some of the Morris traditions

From show-men, to stealing the show.
This little one certainly could have a bright future ahead of her for modelling after totally capturing the attention of the audience during a charity fashion show.

Stealing the show

Whilst the images from shooting at some of these local events will seldom, if ever make it into national publications, all is not lost as I find the events to be surprisingly educational too. The spring horticultural show opened my eyes - from the finer points of the Narcissus, to exactly how many petals a tulip should have.

You can be the judge of that

May opened the start of a spell of musical assignments, and two events which, although taking place on the same day, couldn't have been more diverse.

The morning assignment once again found me in the Saffron Hall for a two day workshop for students of stringed instruments, where world renowned violinist, Nicola Benedetti MBE gave a stunning performance of a piece by Shostakovich to open the event.

Nicola Benedetti reflects

When only having five minutes in the dressing room beforehand, one has to think and work quickly in the given conditions. I was delighted to submit these two images to the picture desk as colour versions although subsequently, they have received recognition as more powerfully emotional black and white images.

Nicola Benedetti warming up
Imelda May

By the evening I had moved to the Cambridge Corn Exchange where Irish singer, Imelda May was performing as part of her 'Life. Love. Flesh. Blood.' tour. As is normal with such events there is usually a 'three song rule' although at this venue we were allowed just two, so again, it was about working quickly to capture the shots needed. Working along the narrow space below the front of the stage, I'm always mindful of trying not to annoy those in the front row. However, when they think the edge of the stage is the bar surface where to place their beer, and then tutt loudly when I have the 'cheek' to move said glass six inches to the side to line up a clean shot, I begin to wonder what is more important to them - the music or the beer!

This shot went on to be used by Imelda May on her own social media sites and in the local press review, where sometimes roles seem to overlap.

How can we forget that unexpected event in June?
Kemi Badenoch becomes MP for Saffron Walden

The Saffron Walden constituency had a change of MP after forty years - although not a change of party.

For many musicians, busking is a way of making ends meet during the early years of their careers.

Starting young. Busking, watched by his parents from across the street.

In June, Saffron Walden hosted a Music Saturday, when the town was given over to buskers for the whole day.

Midsummer found me driving to John o' Groats during the hottest spell of the year and with broken air conditioning too. That was nothing compared to the twenty riders who had first ridden to Lands End on their £300 machines, and in all of their motorbiking gear, so they could set out on their charity 'Longest Day Up' ride on the longest day.

Patched up

Lands End to John o' Groats

I was waiting in John o' Groats to catch the first of the riders to arrive after their end-to-end challenge, which was to be completed within 24 hours. You can read more about how all the riders got on here

Race for Life

Racing is not allowed on public roads, so the Longest Day Up was an endurance challenge, however, I take my hat off to all the ladies who took part in the Colchester Race for Life on a very humid Sunday in July - it was endurance in a human form and it was interesting to note that there was a common theme which linked these two charity events. Pink and cancer - a cruel disease which has touched all of our lives in one way or another.
Cancer affectsus all in some way during our lives

Now for a spot of something Idyllic.
Carriages being drawn by pairs of beautiful horses passing in front of a stately home.
This is what visitors to Audley End House were treated to this this summer, as well as being able to enjoy free rides into Saffron Walden.

Idyllic scenes

However, there are two sides to every story!

Was that in the job description

July also saw the four-yearly Carnival event take place in Saffron Walden. The 'Eight Day Weekend' opened with the crowning of the Carnival Queen and I was sent to cover the hair and beauty preparations beforehand

Receiving Royal Treatment

...and yes, this lovely lady, Molly, went on to win the title.

If you get one, you get another and shortly after I was sent to photograph another hairdressing story.

Not such happy news this time. Four salons in the town had been scammed on the same day by women from a travelling community who had set up camp on the local recreation ground.

On a happier note...

Countess of Warwick Country Show

August brings with it fetes and country shows, and twice in three years I have hit the good weather to shoot the Countess of Warwick's Show, making a perfect judgement to miss the 2016 show when the weather was dreadful.

Bulls Eye

Bulls Eye

You could perhaps say that we all got the bulls eye!

It looks too as though these girls all hit the bulls eye too on GCSE results day in August, where I looked to capture the 'OMG' moment rather than the over-done jumping in the air shot.



August Bank Holiday - time to let the hair down (and everything else!) for Dance in the Square. A balmy summer evening for a change as for several years the event has been washed out. There was a great atmosphere to the evening and some great opportunities for some fun(k) shots.

Uncle Funk

September brought the Tour of Britain to Newmarket, and although the riders didn't show it, boy, did it rain!
Cool dudes

Andy Griffin

It is always a nervous moment when asked to photograph another photographer, particularly one who had just published a wonderful book of portraits of local people. That is what I was asked to do when attending Andy Griffins' book launch, as well as catching some of the guests who were the subjects. Tricky in an old church with tight spaces (no luxury of a studio space) milling guests and poor light conditions.

Improv. shoot
 Andy, I do hope I did your work justice!

During September and October I was working away in Ireland in my other role of host and tutor on my photography breaks and so assignments were not top on the agenda. However, the passage of two notable storms in quick succession provided the opportunity to do some spec. work upon my return to the UK.

Ex Hurricaine Ophelia
A weird day spent in Southend-on-Sea when ex Hurricaine Ophelia passed over the UK, here the now infamous orange light was just starting to cast a strange glow over the pier. The irony is that I should still have been in Ireland on this very day but another assignment (cancelled at the last minute) had brought me home early, and so I missed the photographic opportunities in Ireland which would have been both scary but exciting.

In the face of Storm Brian

A few days later, Storm Brian passed through, and a trip to Clacton-on-Sea had me transfixed on the antics of the kite surfers.

November brings two regular events to my assignment diary.

Lighting up the sky

Bonfire Night
Where this year I placed the focus on the Round Table volunteers who put in all the hard work to make the free event a tremendous success.

Wear your poppy with pride

Remembrance Sunday
Not a suitable day for the usual 'posed shots' favoured by the local press, instead it was a day to focus on the atmosphere and the people.

The third book launch of the year was for that of actor, science communicator and writer, Stephen McGann. Another occasion when the assignment was one I looked forward to.

Hands on writer

Flesh and Blood. A History of my Family in Seven Maladies.

A fascinating evening and Stephen is so amenable when it comes to posing for the photographs
(if only they were all like that!)

Stephen McGann and friends

Which brings my roundup almost to a close with just December left.
Some years I manage to draw the straw to cover every local Christmas Light switch on but this year I seemed to miss them all. Although I did miss another assignment due to weather conditions but it turned into a snow assignment instead.

Slip-slidin' away

I even made it onto the sports page with this one and I'm not a sports photographer!
OK, I know. All the sports action was snowed off and they were short of news for the back page.
Would the real Santa raise his hand

A week later, I was back onto the assignment postponed from the previous week, although the foggy and frosty conditions seriously reduced the numbers of Walden Bikers who took part in the annual Addenbrookes, Cambridge Bikers Christmas Toy Run.

This is an event I have covered for a few years and it is always and incredible feeling to be part of the 200-300 bikes who come from all over the region, and which rumble and snake their way into Cambridge on a Sunday morning, bound for the hospital where sick children will be spending Christmas.

Santa convoy ahead

...and yes, I do photograph from the back of the bike!

However, due to the re-scheduled date, it meant that I was now covering two hospital toy runs on the same day. So off we rode to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, sporting the hi-vis of the SERV riders, also known as the volunteer Blood Runners.

There is something special about helping put smiles on the faces of the children who are unfortunate to be stuck in hospital over Christmas.

Not the usual delivery made by the Blood Runners

Although we didn't actually have a white Christmas, we did have snow-days either side which added a bit of seasonality (if you like that sort of thing!)

Snow at dawn

So now it just remains for me to say, thank you for your support over this past year and to wish you all a
Very Happy and Peaceful New Year.

I don't keep as up to date with my blog these days but it is possible to keep up with me on Instagram @celiabartlett_photo