For the last couple of years ePHOTOziners have made their way to the British Wildlife Centre on 27th Decemeber to try out their new toys. This year, however, the 27th was decreed a normal working day and many had to return to work. So it was suggested that an alternative was arranged for Saturday 30th December at Wildwood in Kent.
Now Wildwood has been visited in these pages before, but on looking back, the last full meeting there was as long ago as June 2004 with The Hunt for Black Squirrel so phone calls were made (to warn the establishment and arrange the use of a power point) and the scene was set. At this time of year, the weather is always a concern and with this particular December being the greyest month in recent memory, as the appointed day approached the forecasts had some regular visitors!
With Folk planning to travel up to 400 mile round trips in order to attend, the gods relented for just long enough and for the first time in weeks, the sun came out at the appointed time! And so it came about that at 10am there were 17 hardy souls, with faces old and new, assembled in the Car Park as the rustic gates swung open.
Group.jpg L-R Robin (Bluefoot), Phill Joss (Phillj), Carl Broadis (Sidaorb), Helen Buckley (Neleliza), Ade Osmant (Osman123), Mathew Batchelor, Fran French (Daffydil56), Jill Batchelor (Haystacks), Shirley Andrews (Shirley), Nick Powell, Sue Osmant (suzieosman), Brett Lewis (Adderman), Della Wakelen (DellaW), Tony Flashman (Nikonf4s), Shaun Wakelen (ShaunW) and Ian Andrews (Characterboats). Nick Armitt (Hobbs) is the one climbing on the woodwork. Late on Parade or missing in action were: Sue Turner, Teddy, Debbie, Phil Hurst (Philh04) and Nigel Batchelor.
Fifteen minutes later, just after the group photo was taken, overcoats and scarves were being abandoned due to the warmth!! A number of stragglers then turned up, swelling the numbers to well over the 20 mark and hoping they would get photoshopped into the image!
Set in 46 acres of ancient woodland, Wildwood can be difficult for photographers, but with the tree canopy devoid of leaves and the forecast impending bad weather, everyone set off around the park in order to get some shots in the ‘can’ and for the next two hours the Cafeteria was a ghost town save for the half a dozen who didn’t wander far and were more interested in coffee and conversation, a pleasant side effect of these meetings.
It was at this point that the Cabaret decided it was time to put on their act, and the Cafeteria’s resident Robin started posing! First in the trees and bushes surrounding the venue, and then coming on to the patio area and visiting each table in turn. All of a sudden, long lenses were being swapped for their macro cousins in order to focus close enough! As a fun part of the day, a little competition had been arranged to see how participants could manage without the advantages of post processing to aid their photography.
A Hi-Ti 730PS printer, kindly loaned by Intro2020, had been set up in the corner of the café and two prints, taken as .jpgs on the day, were allowed for each competitor.
Half a dozen prizes, donated by Intro2020, Sigma UK and Pentax UK and adding up to £500 worth were on offer, making the atmosphere quite competitive.
From just after the 1.30pm mark, there was a constant queue at the printer to get the entries in by the appointed 3pm. It was 3.20pm before all the entries were printed and Penny Cornet, the Wildwood Visitor Centre Manager, kindly agreed to judge them. I would not have wanted her job for all the tea in China, especially with the best part of twenty photographers peering over her shoulder.
The café staff were trying to sweep up, so the opportunity was taken to herd everyone outside onto the veranda. Fortunately it is covered, as the promised rain had by now arrived.
Ten minutes later, Penny emerged with her results. Having judged the prints from the front, with names on the back, it emerged that the top three, and four of the six, were taken by Ladies among the group and Penny speculated that, maybe a male judge would have chosen differently, but she had gone for the appealing images, admitting that she knew nothing of the technicalities of photography!
Nick Armitt (Hobbs), thinking he was still in London’s Hyde Park, got on his soapbox but failed to arouse any interest from the crowd! (© Shaun Wakelen)
The Robin visited all the tables on the Patio.
…and got so brave that Phillj had him eating out of his hand!
Well that produced a couple of red faces amongst the accompanying husbands and I have heard rumours of some severe leg pulling since.
All that was left was for the winners to choose their prizes and a sprint through the ever-deepening puddles back to the car park without getting them wet!
The winners were:
|Place ||Photographer ||Image ||Prize chosen |
|1st ||Della Wakelen || Otter ||Tamrac Bag |
|2nd ||Sue Osmant ||Lynx ||Sigma Bag |
|3rd ||Fran French ||Polecat || CBL White balance lens |
|4th ||Shaun Wakelen || Lynx ||Opus Photo Art Album |
|5th ||Shirley Andrews ||Fungus ||Pentax Binoculars |
|6th ||Brett Lewis ||Red Squirrel ||Gorrillapod |
Kudos to Ade and Sue along with Carl and Helen for chancing the weather and travelling from the other side of the country while thanks must go to both the sponsors and the Wildwood Staff for making the competition possible and such fun!
Here’s looking forward to next year and whatever the weather and the calendar throw at us!
Words: Ian Andrews www.wildaboutkent.com