Friday, 18 November 2011

Timing.............. or the lack of it

Timing, meaning everything from pre-planning to arriving on time to being at the correct spot to get the image, in photography, is everything.

Last weekend I displayed a singular lack of any sense of timing.

As you may have read I prepared to photograph the traditional  Gansabhäut in the town of Sursee in Switzerland (for exact details refer to the previous post).

I've been meaning to photograph it ever since I came to Switzerland in 1995 but things always seemed to happen that prevented me from making the journey.

This year I made all the arrangements. I researched the event, and telephoned the event organiser, the extremely helpful and very knowledgeable Mr Michael Blatter from Sursee council.

He informed me that this year, one hundred and eleven people of all ages from 15 to 70 years old had registered. Each person would only get one attempt at separating the goose from its head. There would be two geese. Last year it had taken about one and a half hours until the second goose was cut free.

The event was scheduled to begin at one o’clock with speeches etc and a procession of guild members carrying the two geese. My interest lay however with the actual main part of the proceedings i.e. the goose whacking.

I left my house in plenty of time and was sure of arriving at about three o’clock. Getting caught in traffic and then having to find a parking space a bit away from the event meant that I turned up 35 minutes late at the town hall. I was confident however that all would be good. Last year’s event had taken ninety minutes right?

Years ago, when I worked as a press photographer, I was told always to take a quick picture at a news scene upon arrival. This ensures that you have a picture, in case anything happens such as being told to leave.

With this in mind, I popped my head trough the door and took a long telephoto shot of one of the contestants lining up his aim. Not a great pic as his left arm is obscuring his mask / face. But I had at least one pic, should anything untoward happen.

 My establishing shot
Eos7d 70 -200 zoom

I went back inside to find Mr Blatter and heard a tremendous cheer from the assembled crowd. Spinning round and exiting through the door, I saw the goose’ body lying on the ground. I snapped several pics and said to one of the press photographers standing next to me

“So that’s the first one gone”

“No” he replied. “That was the second one”

I couldn’t believe it. I’d missed the action!

I learnt from the photographer that the first goose had been knocked down after the seventh participant whacked it.

The second goose had gone after the first person hit it!

All was not not lost however. Another thing that doing press photography teaches you is that there are always other images to be made. Thinking about this, I set about taking other images from the event. Pole climbing (Stangechlädere), ugly face contest (Chäszänne), where the winners get a slice of cheese, and the combined sack race (Sackgompe) & sausage eating contest were recorded by my cameras and these images will go to a slide library of traditional Swiss folklore events.

 Ugly faces rewarded with cheese

The pole climbing

 Combined sack race and sausage eating

 Town square
As for the main event. I'll definitely be back next year!

Thanks for reading

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