Shad meets the Race Horses

The early morning spring light was veiled by the heavy mist that lingered across the green gallops forming the backdrop for a location photography shoot John and I attended a few days ago.  Regular readers will know how much I love being in the countryside spending time with nature, so you can imagine how excited I was to get up close and personal with some of the fastest and highest prized horses in the world.  We were attending a course that took place in Newmarket (apparently the ‘headquarters’ of horse racing) with dinner and an overnight hotel stay included.

 

The food was delicious and the other photographers were friendly, although there’s always one who thinks he knows it all and kept flashing his equipment at the table.  I managed to exchange a couple of surreptitious eyebrow raises with the silver-haired guy opposite me and remembered an old Chinese proverb which, in my words, goes something like this – “he who brags loudest, shoots daftest”!  I noticed a man with thinning light brown hair and a quiff look sternly at me.  Apparently he didn’t think a cat should be at the dinner table.  But I soon impressed him with my impeccable manners, being sure not to slouch, put my paws on the table or lick anything below the waist!

 

Now I do like my peace and quiet at night and that’s exactly what I got when I went to sleep on a soft pillow at the bottom of the bed John slept in.  I woke to the joyful sound of birdsong while it was still dark.  I do like the birds and being a domesticated and sophisticated feline photographer, my instincts to chase them are well controlled thanks to my keen cognitive abilities, pursuit of photography and John’s exemplary care (he makes sure I have plenty of games to keep my mind occupied).  When we went down to breakfast, the staff remembered me from the night before and gave me some extra salmon and scrambled eggs to keep my fur silky and prepare me for the busy day ahead.

 

Nothing had prepared me for strolling across the gallops just after dawn with hundreds of racehorses gathering around to do their morning workouts.  They were so tall and muscular, their short shining coats glistening with sweat and hot air blasting out of their nostrils as they snorted and whinnied their way past me.  I must admit I was slightly nervous when one of them stopped directly in front of me and lowered his head, but he gently pushed his big soft nose against my cheek as though he knew I needed some encouragement and from that moment on, I was well away!

 

He introduced me to the stable cat – a striped tabby boy who sat proudly on the ground watching the riders and trainers head out with the horses while the staff and grooms stayed behind to work in the yard.  And did they work!  Heavy wheelbarrows and water buckets were used to clear up the copious amounts of dust, dirt and manure that get caught in the most unattractive of places.  The bedding is changed in the barns every day, the tack must be cleaned down and the horses feet must be picked to remove all the muck I presume.  Apparently I’m not the only animal that needs to clean the toe jam from between my tootsies.  But unlike some animals, I don’t do it in public!  After a day at the stables I didn’t exactly smell delicious, so I packed up early to begin my washing routine and let John mingle with the rest of the photographers, smiling at the ladies and admiring the gee-gees

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Shad’s bridal photo-shoot – behind the scenes

The whole idea behind this shoot was to promote Shadow Photography and broaden our portfolio of work.  We recruited a fab team of helpers (family and friends) and plenty of effort went on behind the scenes in the preceding weeks to arrange for the car, dress, bouquet, model, hair, make-up, transport, venue and good weather.  The day before the shoot, John and I spent our time cleaning, re-charging and organising the various bits of equipment required to turn a pretty lady in a beautiful location into an impressive image that people want to look at and buy.  And it’s expensive gear that has taken lots of saving and bargaining to acquire, so it must all be kept safe and secure.

 

 

When we arrived at the venue and had taken a moment to soak up the stunning scenery, we got into position and started taking pictures.  It soon became apparent that there were too many creative directors in the group as we all gave Fiona (our model) instructions to adjust her posture and her expression.  “Chin up please”, “Turn your head please”, “No, tilt it to the right”, “Sorry I meant my right”, “Now, the other way please”, “Chin up”, “No, not literally”.  To avoid confusion, we decided to put all requests through John and we quickly got the hang of it.

Time flew by and soon our tummies were rumbling and brows glistening, so we decided to take a break and enjoy the blankets, refreshments and snacks we had brought with us to keep the workers happy.  I yelled “Take 5 people” and Nathan (the chauffeur) shouted “Bet you’ve always wanted to say that” and I have to admit, I did rather enjoy it.  Wishing that I had one of those Hollywood movie clapperboards, I trotted off with my tail up high, had a slurp of water, grabbed one of my meaty sticks, and sat in the shade of an oak tree, watching a colourful male pheasant sashaying along the driveway, feathers on display.  While I contemplated my potential new career as a movie director, tiredness washed over me and I drifted into a gentle slumber.  From a distance, I heard John calling me, keen to finish the job we had started, and no amount of throaty purrs or cute whiskers was going to get me off the hook!!

 

So I moseyed on over to our latest spot and we continued our task in earnest.  By this time we imagined we were working like an elite team in field ops, efficient and organised to the core, although I’m not convinced that a crack team of secret agents would have burst into laughter at Natasha ‘getting her groove thang’ which involved a silly face and a shimmy wiggle.  What a pro!  The atmosphere was relaxed and we had loads of fun, making amusing comments, laughing at each other’s funny poses, taking selfies and not taking ourselves too seriously.  If you’ve ever wondered what’s underneath a bride’s wedding gown, it’s a pair of black wellies!

 

Photos for this Blog supplied by John’s daughter Natasha

Shad’s bridal photo-shoot

My stomach had been churning all morning to the point where I couldn’t eat, and regular readers will know that it’s not like me to go off my food! But my nerves disappeared the moment John drove up the long winding driveway and my eyes came to rest on the emerald green and sunshine yellow fields of grass and daffodils spreading all around us. The meadows were framed with trees of all shapes and sizes and at the top of the drive stood the Rookesbury Park School, a former stately home hidden in the Hampshire countryside. A cat could live an excellent life in a place like this, far away from the hustle and bustle, the dangers of busy roads and angry humans who don’t have the time or the inclination to appreciate the complex behaviours of the feline species. Lucky for me, I’m surrounded by kind-hearted humans who understand my need to rub legs, scratch sofas, nip toes, lick plates, sniff floors and purr manically when my neck is caressed or my fur is fondled.

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John pulled up outside the house and started emptying the car of all the camera equipment while I bounced over to the edge of the field and gazed contentedly across the landscape. I started to picture myself running in slow motion to the sound of Chariots of Fire, leaping majestically with my paws outstretched like Marty the Zebra and Alex the Lion running towards each other on the beach in the movie Madagascar. But I couldn’t spend all day dreaming of frolicking in the prairie, I had work to do! The model was dressed in her bridal gown and the hairdresser was providing a few finishing touches as the glorious spring sun smiled down upon us. The wedding car was in position and lenses, tripods, flashguns and quantum cables were set up and ready to go. The photographers were John, myself and John’s daughter Natasha who kept making me laugh. She knows full well that my belly wobbles when I chuckle and it’s hard to keep the camera still!!

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We worked hard for over 3 hours, perspiring in the heat and getting stiff muscles and trigger finger (or trigger paw in my case) from holding awkward positions and the multiple button-clicking involved, but it was worth every moment. It was a great opportunity to support the model and the hair-stylist who are both at the beginning of their careers and appreciated having some pro shots for their portfolios so my thanks go to them for their skill and endurance. Thanks also to Brides of Sussex in Bognor Regis for the loan of the gown, and Nathan at BB Executive Travel in Bognor Regis for his posh car and ribbons and his upbeat style. Thanks also to Natasha for her patience, jokes and comical body movements that kept everyone amused. Well it kept me amused anyway, although as John knows, I’m easily pleased!

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