I’m a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, which runs an annual awards ceremony. The Guild has some extremely experienced members and I find it useful to be a member myself, to ask advice and share information in a friendly, non competitive spirit.
Awards are competitive though, and I’m uncomfortable with blowing my own trumpet, not keen on celebrity and how it plays a part in outdoor culture. What matters is the work, always. But the squeaky wheel gets the oil, so I’m bound to show and tell as part of that work. I’m ambivalent about it.
I received two certificates this year. The first was a very bittersweet win in Digital Media, for a collaboration with Tim Parkin (of On Landscape magazine) for the Save Glen Etive website. Bittersweet because we won a gong from our peers despite losing (at least for now) the campaign to prevent environmentally damaging run-of-river Hydro schemes being built in the Glen. Tim deserves most if not all of the credit here, and is among the most professional people I’ve ever worked with. We built the entire thing from scratch over one weekend (he on the web design, myself on the text, including much discussion with the other team members of course), ahead of a deadline decision by the Highland Council.
The second was a ‘highly commended’ (runner up) for a piece on Night Navigation in The Great Outdoors magazine. Again, this was notable as a collaboration with Heather Morning of Mountaineering Scotland, one of my own personal heroes. Heather lives 100% in meatspace. She’s not on social media at all, and is one of the realest people you’ll ever meet!
Both of these were journalistic pieces of work. The point of this work was and is to furnish others with the tools to make their own decisions… not to make us look good.
The winner in Technical Feature was for Jen Benson. I haven’t read her winning piece but I have read some of her other work. Take a look - I think this is wonderful.
The lead photo used in my article might be of interest. The judges described the photos as ‘good, dark, muddy’ (!) Photography was obviously going to be extremely challenging: moving subjects in pitch black, lit only by head torches. I shot on the move at extremely high ISO’s and with the aperture wide open (F2.8). Autofocus was impossible in the dark and with spindrift everywhere, and so I was focusing manually. As conditions deteriorated further, the camera grew sluggish and was very slow to write shots to the card - I think my newer Sony A7R3 would fare better now, but as a rule mirrorless systems still struggle to match a DSLR in really severe weather, I think (and I’m a Sony user). Burst shooting was impossible. I had to be very calculated as the camera would ‘black out’ for several seconds after each shot .
Right from the beginning, I had a shot in mind. Talk about ‘previsualising’ can come off a bit elitist but I did have the foresight to bring some additional lighting with me. A regular flashgun was out of the question, it needed to be something that was small, but would withstand minus double digits and windspeeds gusting to 40-50mph. While the crew were orientating for the summit, I saw my chance to deploy a high powered, off road bike light, and ran around to backlight them for the photo above. I managed to push the shutter just as Heather moved into the light. I may feel a bit squeamish about awards and certificates, but I was pretty pleased with that shot!