In the words of Alice Cooper "Schools Out For Summer", hence I'm spending time with the children. My Street/Life Photography and therefore this blog have taken a backseat, I'm still making photographs during the school holidays and I'll probably write up a "What I did this Summer" blogpost once they're back to school.
In the meantime I was invited to watch and photograph a Lawn Bowls Match a few evenings ago by my very good friend Kevin French. He's been my Las Vegas travel companion for 23 years, my Friday night drink buddy and godfather to my youngest son. Much more importantly he's a passionate bowler and currently Captain of his team. Like most hobbies it appears to be all consuming, in the summer months at least which is when the season's in full flow. Now, as much as I've heard all about the sport from Kev, I have never played Lawn Bowls, nor did I have any idea of the rules or method and so I can offer an "unbiased" account for anyone interested.
Lawn Bowls has been around for a very long time, I read somewhere that the ancient Egyptians started it in some form and thereafter various versions have appeared all over the globe, for example the French version is Boules, in Italy Bocce and so on. As a side note I recently wrote a blogpost on my visit to Southampton and inability to find anything of interest there, well it turns out that it's the home of the oldest documented Lawn Bowls Green and dates back to a documented 1299 AD. The most famous reference which may or may not be true is that on July 19, 1588, Drake was involved in a game of Bowls at Plymouth when he was notified that the Spanish Armada had been sighted. His alleged response was, "There is plenty of time to win the game and thrash the Spaniards too." What we do know is that it was extremely popular, so much so that Henry VIII banned everyone apart from the very wealthy playing as it was wasting too much time for ordinary workers when they should be concentrating on their given trade.
The object of the sport is simple enough as I see it. From a fixed position at one end get your Bowls (Woods) as close as possible to the small white ball (the Jack) at the opposite end of the rink. As with most sports a simple concept involves all sorts of convoluted tactics. The Woods have a "bias" and as such bend as they roll so there is skill involved to allow for that, getting the correct line and of course crucially the weight (force/speed). No point leaving it short, unless you're trying to protect or block your own wood that is close to the Jack, too far and you're in the ditch and it doesn't count. I saw all sorts of techniques in the act of bowling, evidently it's one of those "minute to learn, lifetime to master" skills.
My friend, Kev takes another approach. His tongue comes out and often there's a cigarette in one hand, perhaps it's a balance thing, whether or not any of this helps is anyones guess;
Before travelling into Bristol I looked up various websites connected with Lawn Bowling to see what the standard of images presented was, I can tell you that it's quite low and also reveal that I didn't manage to improve the photographs on offer in any way whatsoever. Obviously you can't get too close to the action for fear of putting off a bowler or stand at the end they're bowling to, because movement from me would have the same effect. Think of golfers, who often blame a bad shot on someone talking or a bird flapping its wings three miles away! The other challenge for a photographer using a Leica Rangefinder is that long telephotos aren't an option, my longest lens is 90mm, generally I'm using 35mm. I suspect you'd need a 200mm lens or something much more powerful. What I'd like to do is give it another go one evening and also it would be a prime opportunity to take some portraits. There are a lot of wonderful characters involved and capturing some of them would be my goal. I have to say that they were all a very nice group of guys. Anyway, back to the Bowls and a shot I did like using the 90mm. I believe this to be father and son, I could be wrong;
This was a League match. My friends Team (Redland Bowls Club) versus Olveston & District Bowls Club. My thoughts were that generally these things get quite close near the end of a match and I'd be able to capture some of the emotion or dramatic moments. Alas it wasn't to be, not close at all come the end despite the scoreboard on one of the "rinks" at an early stage of the match.
No need to get into the points and how they're scored. This is how I saw things;
There are four players in each team, two teams to a rink, three rinks in action. Two of the players (we'll call them Captains) stand at the end where the jack is whilst the other six players take it in turns to bowl their woods up to the jack. During which the two "captains" wave their arms, give hand signals and offer advice as to how close or where to place the next shot.
Once the others have finished then these two walk down and take their go. It seemed to me that they were instructing their respective team members to create all kinds of magic that quite frankly was beyond not only their skill, but that of the very best professional bowlers. Once it was the "Captains" turn then all that advice offered to the others was forgotten, the team members watched in silent horror as their glorious leaders proceeded to cock it up! Okay, I'm making light of it, I saw some extremely good players the other evening. There's a lot of walking from one end to the other;
...and standing around, all I could do was document it;
One thing for sure is that it was a beautiful summers evening and in a superb setting. The light was gorgeous as we drew near to sunset. Long shadows were being cast and I really thought I was going to get some great photos. I suppose photography is much like bowls, success depends partly on your performance during that particularly day. I wanted to be able to show my friend some great photographs and I expect he wanted me to see his team victorious. In the end it's not of any great importance, enjoying the process is what counts and I certainly did.
At the end of the match the players retire to the bar. Here they enjoy a pint of beer, a pie or hot dog, dissect their performances, have a joke or two and generally enjoy each each others company. That was always the part I enjoyed most about golf when I used to play and suspect that if I ever took up Bowls it would remain true. Once they'd all gone I had a quick go under instruction from Captain Kev. I can see how it can become addictive, so for now I'll resist temptation, besides I have far to many addictions to cope with already!
All images can be opened by clicking on the thumbnails and are taken using a Leica M with either Summicron 35mm, Summicron 90mm or Noctilux 50mm lenses fitted. My sincere thanks go to anyone taking the time to read my blog.