Feline The Cold

The women of Tyneside are notorious for their determination to persevere in wearing of high heels and tiny dresses whatever the weather conditions may be. Come rain or shine, and even snow, the NCB (no coat brigade) can be seen around the Bigg Market and the bars of Collingwood Street. They seem impervious to discomfort.

Last night I returned to the world of photographing models, courtesy of a workshop provided by Eric Murphy of the world-famous Bananastudio and his team. When it comes to posing models, I lack any real degree of competence, and after a long lay off this was already exacerbated before you add in the factor that we were shooting on location in temperatures close to zero.

With a couple of layers on legs and twice that number on my upper body, I thought I’d be fine, which was true, though I was never comfortable. My fellow photographers were similarly attired, yet we grouped together penguin-like in the chill air (which was ironically appropriate to the night’s theme).

The metal of lights, stands, lenses and camera bodies leached the heat from fingers, and though I have some neatly designed photography gloves these were soon augmented by a second pair beneath. It was bitter._MG_0762

The performance of the models therefore was nothing short of remarkable. The theme for the evening was Batman; and here we had the two femmes fatale of the Dark Knight’s story. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman is the great unconsummated love, Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy) leaves him vulnerable to her charms through her expert use of toxins.  Neither is known for their heavily insulated fashion-sense; in fact later depictions of Ivy have her sporting little more than strategically placed vines.

The welfare of the models was more in mind therefore than improving my limited skills, because I didn’t want exposure to take on a new meaning in my life as a photographer.  In Ivy’s case the difficulties were increased by the limited vision she had as a result of wearing special effect contact lenses and perilous platform boots which were completely unstable on the cobbles where we were working.

All in all it’s a miracle that I got anything worthwhile, but thanks to the determination of Belle and Alexandra I did.

It wasn’t a lot, but enough for a Knight’s work.

Catwoman hits the High Level
Catwoman hits the High Level


Let’s go living in the past*

At 23.6 degrees Celsius, the Aberdeenshire town of Aboyne set a record last week for the highest temperature ever recorded in Scotland during March.  Seven days later, and early April sees the same town lying under several centimetres of snow.  A week is a long time in climatics.

The same weather system that painted Aboyne a whiter shade of pale has been moving south down the eastern side of the UK overnight, and the forecasters have been warning of disruption from snow falls.  Here in Whitburn, where I was photographing a woman in shorts a couple of days ago, the precipitation and wind speed have rocketed; the temperatures have plummeted.  It is 20 degrees cooler here than last week.

So far the skies have seen fit to ejaculate rain and sleet rather than the cold white stuff, so roads are flooding and drains are unable to cope.  No surfers or open water swimmers would brave the North Sea today, the white surf of Sunday turned brown by the sands snatched up by the power of the water.   The beach itself is alive, not with with the usual walkers and dogs, but with a flowing mass of sand particles, hovering above ground level as if part of some experimental reverse magnetism.

Finding anyone about is going to be difficult in these conditions, much less anyone willing to stop and be photographed while wind and rain work in tandem to provide discomfort.  Those who are out have their heads bowed in submission, or bravely sprint from door to door.

Luckily Gill’s car was due an MOT test, so in collecting her from the garage I had time to pop inside and photograph Lee who was manning the service reception desk.  The blue wall against which he stands gives an almost tropical feel in stark contrast to the conditions outside.

Returning to my car I noticed the automatic shutter doors keeping the workshop area protected from the conditions outside, and preventing valuable heat from escaping the building.  It took me back to teenage days when I would spend my summer holidays in the workshop of my father’s garage.  Even then I remember bitterly cold days when we would drag the heavy wooden workshop doors across the entrance to keep out the worst of the wind and or rain, though they were no protection against draughts.  Hands made cold by spanner or socket wrench were desperately warmed around small electric heaters that were woefully inadequate.

At least we were indoors though.  My first job after leaving school, and whilst awaiting my exam results, was in a shipyard on the Wear, though it was an office job and during the summer.  It lead me to wonder about the men who worked outdoors on the superstructure of those ships – what did they do on a day like today.  I suspect downing tools wasn’t considered unless there were extreme safety risks.  Shipbuilding eventually progressed to being undertaken in vast hangar like buildings with enormous doors that allowed the hull to be completed before being floated out for completion on the river.

It seems to me that people were more resilient in those days, more willing to put up with pain of frozen fingers, the discomfort of wet clothing, the chattering of teeth.  There seemed to be less susceptibility to allergies in those days too, ostensibly as a lesser degree of hygiene awareness led to more opportunity to build resistance.

Were we hardier souls in those days, or did the nostalgia gene kick in without me noticing, and if it did, at what age do we become susceptible?  (Probably sooner than we used to!)

Incidentally, as I processed Lee’s picture I was reminded of a guy I worked with some 25 years ago called Roger Talbot and wondered what he’s doing now.  Arrrrrggghhhh, there I go again!

*Jethro Tull