Lairg Lamb Sale is an event I’ve mentioned before on duckrabbit. No apologies for posting some more images. I love it.
If you like ‘atmosphere’ Lairg is hard to beat. The smell of sheep predominates, and their incessant bleating competing with the non-stop calling of the auctioneers, mixed with the buzz of conversation between the hill-farmers is a heady concoction.
It starts at dawn, and ends at dusk. It is the largest single-day sheep sale in Europe and on occasion up to 30,000 animals may pass through the ring. It is about sheep, and it also about people. About meeting old friends and acquaintances and swapping tales of the year past.
Fancy going? Well just fetch up, walk in and enjoy!
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Take one cow, on a cold day, and liberally sprinkle with sleety rain. Wait until rain soaks the outer layer of hair and starts to make it slightly curly. Photograph. Magic!
Jonathan Jones is at it again. He loves to stir it. Writing in The Guardian about Peter Lik’s very expensive canyon photograph, he makes some grand pronouncements. I’ll let others take issue with Jones’ nonsensical “Photography is not an art. It is a technology.” comment. What I’ll take issue with is Jones’ description of the image as being of “a grand phenomenon of nature”. Sorry Jonathan – but that’s a grand phenomenon of ignorance you display.
If it’s the canyon you refer to, then yes I’d agree, if it’s the shaft of light, well yes indeed, but if it’s the ‘phantom’ of the title, which is all that differentiates it from a host of other similar shots, then I hate to disillusion you but it’s artifice.
The ‘effect’ is obtained by tossing a handful of dirt from the canyon floor into the air in the shaft of sunlight. More organized photographers get a companion to lob the stuff down from above. Those with even less scruples lob a handful of talcum powder into the air, which more is uniform in size and lighter than dirt and floats just a little bit longer, making it easier to get a few frames; however that latter technique is also environmentally unsustainable and grossly polluting. Those with no scruples whatsoever set something on fire and send smoke up the shaft of light. Smoke is very light and floats better, but is less controllable. It can also leave soot residues and other toxins depending on what was burned.
Is it worth $6.5m as a piece of art? Well yes the buyer thought so. So I guess that’s that part of the debate settled then.
But I have to say, when I look at it, I just see something that is at best some careful artifice, or at worst crass environmental vandalism. I have no idea what method was used, and make no pronouncements about the author’s environmental credentials. It is what it is, and what it is, is most likely not natural.
Why am I concerned about this? Well the success of this image will no doubt prompt a rash of copycats. Some will take the unscrupulous route I’m quite sure. And the environmental consequences of that could be considerable. Art, I’d like to think, whether good or bad, should not destroy or pollute that which it celebrates. Time will tell, and I hope I am proved wrong.
Maybe a hint of sour grapes on my part? If you say so.
But…..do you want to see my own ‘phantom’?
Here you go then: Isle of Rum, a long hard climb through thick mist and misery to emerge on the summit ridge. In the distance the Skye Cuillin mountains rise up from the Atlantic, and closer to, a momentary glimpse of a swirling ‘phantom’ which swelled up out of the corrie opposite, outspread it’s arms and dived across the ridge, soaring off into nothingness.
$6.5m for a print of this? Aye, aye that’ll do nicely thanks, if you want to have it to grace your wall. I’ll even sign it.
But the reality – the experience of climbing hard, breathless, and being there to see something like this unfold before me, a true phenomenon of nature…….priceless. And you cannot purchase that.
My recent post that focused on trees in Yellowstone and my being accosted by frustrated American wildlife watchers raised a few chuckles: Where’s the Effing Bear Man?
So here’s a few more pictures that are less reliant on the tree content, and have more wildlife. Should please @timangerphoto then!
But seriously, Yellowstone (and the nearby Grand Teton NP) is a fantastic area with amazing landscapes and wildlife. Well worth a visit.
(Warning: this article contains pictures of trees)
“Ya bunch of fu**ing limeys!” he shouted and spinning his tyres with an angry pedal-to-metal burst of acceleration, sprayed a sheet of gravel up into the air right beside me.
‘He’ was an Angry American On Vacation in Yellowstone, out at dawn in the autumn to capture ‘something wild’.
‘We’ were a group of UK tourists being led by me and my colleague Pete, visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and doing exactly the same thing. Angry A.O.V. had spotted us standing by the roadside in the early light as the first pink glow of dawn began to tinge the swirling morning mist.
Our lenses, some short, others large white and very obvious Canon 500mm f4’s a couple of feet long, were trained into an area of dead trees and marshy ground.
“What ya got there, a bear? A bison? A wolf?” he’d asked as his electric window revealed his eager face.
“Trees” I replied, and adding for politeness: “….and a good morning to you too. It’s a lovely one isn’t it!”
“Gotta be a bear man, where is it?” he replied
“No, only trees” I reassured him “…..just getting them in the early light.”
“Man it’s gotta be a wolf, its a wolf, isn’t it, is it in that thicket?” he asked with a growing sense of frustration.
“No, its just trees, we couldn’t find anything else. We’ve been looking for bison since before dawn with no luck, so we thought we’d just capture some of the nice light on the trees. Here look at my camera…”
But sadly before I could pull my dslr off my large tripod, he offered me a choice mouthful of curses and roared off into the distance. The next car arrived minutes later….
“What ya got man, is it a wolf, a bear?” asked the eager driver.
“Er um no only trees” I tentatively replied.
“What, trees? Ya think I’m stupid man, do ya? Well do ya?”
“Well if you don’t get out to look and enjoy the trees, I’ll have to assume you might be.” I replied gently.
“Might be what?” he responded more curiously.
“Oh you work it out for yourself, you look quite bright, I’m going back to the trees, have a good day.”
Engine revs, more curses, more spinning tyres. And more gravel. This happened again, and again. Same routine every time. But to be fair many people just smiled at me, sympathetically and with a mildly concerned look, no doubt wondering if I was being well-looked after by my nurse.
So, if you’re one of the many folks who stopped to see what we were photographing, because you thought we had spotted something absolutely wonderful. You were right. We had. And here’s the evidence: trees.
Just trees, trees and a few more trees. Glorious.
It’s a well-worn saying, but as I’ve slowly come to realize, it’s so true: sometime people just can’t see the wood for the trees.