First steps

The UK Government announced that pubs, hotels, restaurants and many other areas of the hospitality, entertainment and service sectors could re-open from July 4th providing they follow guidelines on social distancing and sanitising.

On assignment for Getty Images I was sent up to Newcastle to look for things to illustrate this key moment in the coronavirus story so far.

Arriving early in the morning and starting was to be a very long day I left the car park and headed out to find men’s barber shops. Knowing they would be busy I began photographing several of them as I walked around town.

Fortunately I was able to get some pictures early so could head back to the car to edit and file them. Getting an early set of pictures sent always takes a small amount of pressure off.

I repeated this process a few more times throughout the day covering a decent distance and walking a circuitous route so that I ultimately ended up back where my car was to edit.

Each time I tried to find something a little different but also not ignoring something if I thought it would make an ok picture even if I had shot something similar earlier.

After getting access into a snooker hall and shooting outside a few of the restaurants and pubs I headed back to the car to send this small final set.

Throughout the day it was clear that it was not going to be as busy as might have been expected. Of course there were more people out than there have been over recent weeks as these restrictions ease but it was still quite clear that this wasn’t a ‘normal’ Saturday by any means.

All the barber shops and everyone else I approached had implemented all the social distancing and sanitising precautions and were totally fine with pictures being taken. It was quite nice for a change to not encounter at least some abuse from someone.

The second part of my day was to head north of Newcastle to Gosforth and a pub called ‘The Job Bulman’. The former post office building was built in 1928 and served Gosforth and district for more than 50 years. Named after a respected local doctor who had a hand in the early development of Gosforth the pub is now owned by the Wetherspoons pub chain.

My job that evening was to show people back in a pub for the first time since lockdown started and having a drink while they tried to adhere to the new social distancing guidelines and restrictions.

Admittedly having to hang around a pub all night trying to get pictures isn’t my favourite thing in the world knowing that pictures that sometimes result from people drinking can be used in all manner of ways and not always accurately portray what it was like.

But as this was a genuine news story considering where we are with the pandemic there was no alternative other than getting in amongst it and shooting some pictures.

The pub had all the measures in place with a briefing to customers from the door staff on entry, hand sanitiser and track and trace forms available to those who wanted to compete them as they entered. Distanced tables, no standing, card payments only, ordering by apps if they could, signage and floor markings everywhere and plastic screens protecting bar staff.

In the majority of cases and to be fair from what I saw everyone was trying to adhere as best they could to social distancing.

Once again and slightly surprisingly I have to admit the vast majority of people were happy to have me hanging around taking pictures. You can’t just loiter in a pub with a camera taking pictures because, well it looks dodgy straight away doesn’t it? So you have to approach people and tell them what you’re doing. There were a few who said they didn’t want to be photographed and that’s ok but I was expecting more to say no so it did make the job a little easier.

On a personal level after seeing the pub last night I still wouldn’t feel comfortable going to one in the current climate. Because even with all these measures in place and with the majority of people aware of and trying to follow the guidelines there are still unavoidable situations when it doesn’t happen for whatever reason.

So after a couple of hours I decided that I’d had enough and called it a night.

Of course going forward and for the time being at least we all have to take these first steps back towards some kind of normality in all aspects of daily life. But with these restrictions rightly in place, it does still make it all a very surreal affair.

Lets not forget that at the time of publishing this post there have been 516 further cases announced and 22 deaths today – source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ – The number is reducing yes, but it’s more than a number for so many families and communities. It’s way more than that and while first steps are welcome for everyone for all the reasons we know about complacency and disregard for this virus can easily send us all on a downward spiral back to a far worse situation.

Images (c) Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

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Behind the Shot – Noctilucent Clouds

With a decent view over the North Sea coast from my home I can often glance out my window and get a feel for what the weather might be doing. Often I can see storms brewing or rainbows forming and within a few minutes I can be down on the beach shooting pictures.

This time of year on a clear night it’s not uncommon to see Noctilucent clouds beginning to form. Knowing that the conditions were favourable I looked from my window and was fortunate to see them forming from my window.

Grabbing my gear I headed down to the beach and began to shoot several pictures. Working different angles as I tried to get the clouds and the pier together in a decent composition I watched as two fishermen made their way to the end of the pier to begin fishing…

Noctilucent clouds, or night shining clouds, are cloud-like phenomena in the upper atmosphere of Earth and consist of ice crystals. They are only visible during astronomical twilight.

Noctilucent clouds can form only under very restricted conditions during summer and their occurrence can be used as a sensitive guide to changes in the upper atmosphere. They are a relatively recent classification. The occurrence of noctilucent clouds appears to be increasing in frequency, brightness and extent.

Noctilucent clouds are composed of tiny crystals of water ice up to 100 nm in diameter and exist at a height of about 76 to 85 km (47 to 53 miles) higher than any other clouds in Earth’s atmosphere.

Shot details: Sony A9ii camera, Sony GM 85mm f1.4 lens, ISO 200, Exposure 30 seconds at f14. Manfrotto tripod.

 Image (c) Ian Forsyth 

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Brent Alpha

The Brent Alpha topside oil platform is transported on the Iron Lady cargo barge into the mouth of the River Tees on route to the Able UK Seaton Port for decommissioning on June 24, 2020 in Teesside, England.

The 17,000 tonne oil platform was transported to an area off the Hartlepool coast by the largest heavy lift vessel ever built, Pioneering Spirit, from the Shell Brent oil field situated 115 miles north-east of Lerwick in Scotland.

After arriving off the coast of Hartlepool the platform was transferred to the barge to be towed into the mouth of the River Tees. This is the third oil platform to be removed from the Shell Brent oil field with the sister platforms, Brent Delta decommissioned at the same site in 2017 and Brent Bravo last year.

Once at the Able UK site Brent Alpha will be broken down with some parts being re-sold and the rest scrapped and re-cycled. At its peak in 1982 the four Shell platforms in the Brent field were producing more than half a million barrels of oil a day. Production at the field was stopped in 2011.

 

Image (c) Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

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Behind Closed Doors

On assignment today for Getty Sport I was up in Newcastle to cover what was happening outside of St James’ Park as Newcastle played their first ‘behind closed doors’ game against Sheffield United.

Getty sport has their sports guys inside the ground covering the action on the field but under the current lockdown restrictions having thousands of fans inside the stadium clearly was a no-go. So I was sent along to document anything that might be happening around the ground during the match.

Arriving in Newcastle a little over two hours before the 2pm kick off I parked up and headed to the ground. Match day in any town or city is a busy affair as fans from both sides make their way to the ground but today was not typical.

Aside from an increased police presence around the ground and the hi-viz jackets of the stewards and stadium security you would never know there was a premier league game going ahead.

Admittedly as I was driving up to Newcastle I wasn’t feeling particularly excited about the prospect of what I might be able to shoot. Clearly there was never going to be hundreds of toon fans stood at the stadium. Nor are there any pubs open who might otherwise be screening the match, so other than generic GV’s of the stadium and stewards I was uncertain of what else there might be.

On arrival at the stadium I was indeed greeted by the site of two stewards sitting on a wall near the main entrance. But beyond them were the Sheffield United team buses…beyond them were four police horses passing the stadium….and beyond them was a bloke with a towel draped over his shoulders stood chanting football songs on a wall he had climbed up next to the Alan Shearer statue!

Ok…I thought, so there are things there I can work with! After shooting some pictures around those I began the first of what to become six full circuits of the stadium.

Walking around and through Leazes Park which backs onto the stadium perimeter on one side. Fortunately it was a nice day and there were plenty of people – socially distanced of course – in the park enjoying the open space and a bit of sunshine.

During my circuits of the ground in Leazes Park I was able to photo a guy having a kick around with a friend, a couple of lads watching the game on their phones and I was able to get a picture as they celebrated when Newcastle scored their second goal. There were a couple of police officers on horse back and a young girl riding a bike. All of these were with the stadium structure towering over the trees behind them and made ok pictures.

Around the ground there were various shots of stewards and a couple of fans who were there. All of these were gradually adding to the set from the day but I decided to have walk into the city centre and see what I could find there. I had a thought that TV or electrical shops or maybe fast food places or a taxi office might have had the match on as it was made available for free so I hoped I might see people gathered on the street watching it.

Alas this came to nothing and I wasn’t able to find anything decent that worked but after shooting a guy on a bench watching it on his laptop I headed back for another circuit around the stadium.

By the end of the match, Newcastle won 3-0, I’d filed 2 lots of pictures to the desk and covered a few miles around town so it was time to call it a day and head home.

Here’s a few pictures from the day:

 Image (c) Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

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Haar in the woods

Haar or sea fret is a cold sea fog. It occurs most often on the east coast of England or Scotland between April and September, when warm air passes over the colder North Sea.

Haar is typically formed over the sea and commonly occurs when warmer moist air moves over the relatively cooler North Sea causing the moisture in the air to condense, forming haar. 

Sea breezes and easterly winds then bring the haar towards the coast where it can continue for several miles inland. This can be common in the UK summer when heating of the land creates a sea breeze, bringing haar in from the sea and as a result can significantly reduce temperatures compared to those just a few miles inland.

For several days this fog has covered much of the coastline around Saltburn and its whispery fingers have reached the short distance into the woodland that stretches down to the beach.

 Image (c) Ian Forsyth 

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Behind the shot – The Elephant Crossing

In February 2016 I was on a trip to Kenya. It was a personal trip rather than a work trip but being a photographer…well you know how it is!

We were on a safari drive making our way through the Masai Mara National Reserve. The reserve is an area of spectacular savannah wilderness in southwestern Kenya, along the Tanzanian border.

Its animals include lions, cheetahs, elephants and zebra’s. Wildebeest traverse its grassy plains and rolling hills during their annual migration.

Nile Crocodiles and pods of hippo’s populate the Mara and Talek rivers as they meander through the Mara before they spill out into Lake Victoria.

It is truly awe inspiring.

The Toyota land cruiser we were in, driven expertly by a really great and knowledgable bloke called Mahamed who in the years since the trip has subsequently become a friend, drove us along a bumpy track – all the tracks on the Mara are bumpy by the way – and as I stood in the back of the vehicle, bouncing off the open roof space with my cameras as I tried to keep an eye out for potential pictures I realised that after the last brief halt a few hundred yards back down the track I had neglected to secure one of my cameras properly.

The Fuji XT1 with a 50-140mm f2.8 lens attached was lying loose on a seat in the truck. I know, I know…bad drills all round! And as I turned realising my error the inevitable bump in the track was hit and it fell from the seat.

As it hit the floor of the truck the lens and camera parted company in a very unglamorous way. Rubber seals and tiny screws flying all over the place. It was quickly clear that this camera and lens would take no further active role in this Kenya trip! After a few strong words to myself for my mistake I wrapped the whole thing up in a cloth and put it in my bag to keep all the bits together.

Clearly these things happen. Annoying and frustrating as they are I still had a wide lens on another Fuji body and as usual I had my Leica M9 with a 50mm on it so it wasn’t like I couldn’t take any pictures – that would have been a tragic outcome!

The 50mm was now the longest lens I had to use. A thought that initially gave me a little concern because the immediate thought when you think about a safari holiday in a place like Kenya is that you need the longest glass you can get! But don’t worry. You don’t.

A short while after the Fuji-bump incident we crossed over the River Mara on a bridge not too far from the Kenya/Tanzania border. Stopping to cast our eyes along the banks of the river I noticed a small group of elephants on one side.

Slowly and with the complete assurance of a species completely comfortable in the environment they made their way from the tree-line and across a sandy bank before entering the water and crossing the river.

In their lumbering but highly efficient way they reached the far bank before blending into the trees and out of sight.

I shot the picture here on their approach to the water with the Leica M9 and a 50mm f2 Summicron. The exposure was 1/2000 @f4 with an ISO of 200.

Is there a moral to this story…not especially, other than take care of your kit, have a back up or two if you’re on a big and potentially one-off trip, make the best use of the equipment you have as you can still get good pictures and secure your bloody cameras if you’re bouncing along a rough track…oh and go to Kenya! Guarantee you won’t regret it.

And for those worrying about the state of the Fuji…on eventual return to the UK both camera and lens were repaired perfectly in a very short time by the helpful people at Fuji and both continued on to have a couple more years happy service.

 Image (c) Ian Forsyth

See more of my work at Room 2850

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