John and I have been looking for a way to build our portfolio and enhance our capabilities so we decided to enroll in Sports Photography School. I dug out my old satchel from the bottom of the wardrobe and insisted that John find my pencil case as I was very keen to make a good impression. But it turns out that photography school isn’t based in a classroom, but is actually an event shooting experience that takes you to all sorts of interesting settings. Like the Copper Box Arena (a multi-sport venue in the Olympic Park in London used for the 2012 Summer Olympics) which was the location for a championship British Basketball League game between the London Lions and the Bristol Flyers last Friday.
Apparently the Flyers are a force to be reckoned with and unbeaten in their last few games. However the Lions triumphed that night due to their mastery of offensive and defensive techniques. Oh yes, I learned more than just how to improve my photography. I discovered that basketball players pass and shoot, but more worrying they also foul, block and dribble. Most of these guys were over 6 feet tall with huge strides and an extraordinary ability to navigate through the crowded areas of the court. As you can see from the pictures, they were also adept at leaping vertically into the air, an essential skill required to perform a classic slam-dunk.
It was a great opportunity for John and I to develop our camera skills and I learnt loads about the importance of backgrounds and the challenges of timing key moments. Some of the fun moments of the evening involved these pretty ladies collectively known as the Lioness’s as they danced their support for the team, always smiling and so cheery. But there is also a role for the more sporty ladies out there and the game is played professionally by women in England. The Women’s English Basketball League is a professional competition that has thirty national league sides and includes teams such as the Rhondda Rebels and the Sheffield Hatters. I just love the names of basketball teams, like the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Denver Nuggets. I discovered that there appears to be great reverence directed towards the feline species demonstrated through the names of teams such as the Charlotte Bobcats, the Detroit Tigers, the San Jose Sabercats, the Florida Panthers and closer to home, the Nottingham Wildcats. I approve!
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