BE INCREDIBLE, SPREAD THE WORD, LET'S FIGHT BLOOD CANCER TOGETHER
Walking. It's what artistic photographers do right? They walk. Since the launch of Tenth Floor Photography 15 months ago, we have been on 52 photo shoots. That's a lot of miles covered. You might assume I'm relatively fit, right? Wrong.
The Tenth Floor Team were invited by Bloodwise Scotland to capture High Hopes Hike 2018. The route was in Glencoe, at the Devil's Staircase. 10 miles.
THE BEGINNING - TENTH FLOOR LUCK
It was a job for Christina, Shirley and I. Should really have had more, but unfortunately the rest of the team had other commitments. Now, people had been training for this; we hadn't. Because we're idiots.
Camera gear packed and test shots done for spots, we headed up to North St David's Street for the 04.30 bus to Glasgow on the cold morning of the 26th May. My birthday. What does the bus do? Arrives 40 mins late. This is typical of a Tenth Floor shoot, nothing goes right in the start. Me and Shirley once got lost in a park on the way to a gig in the night because GPS, I swear, was trying to get us murdered.
We all passed out on the bus, trying to get enough rest as possible, not knowing what kind of challenge was before us. There were buses waiting for us in Glasgow and it was really straight forward, so off to the great unknown we embarked.
I spent a lot of the journey planning what kind of photography to shoot and prepared myself. Before I knew it, we were there. Glencoe. It's been a while, Scottish Highlands.
The walkers assembled and at last, a familiar face: Stacy Rowan. I've worked with her before, and it was her who invited us.
I find at the charity events we've done you often feel alienated because you're surrounded by so many people who have worked so hard to raise money, then there's you and your team; photography geeks...
Chaos in my mind became organisation and we went to work on a group shot.
This is where the dynamic of the Tenth Floor truly comes into play. All shooting at different focal lengths: I was on 10mm, Christina on 24mm, and Shirley on 50mm. Naturally mine seems so far away although I was the closest, then Christina and then Shirley.
As you might see from the photo above, the theme was GHOSTBUSTERS!! My all time favourite, so now it was time to take it all in.
Alarmingly, we fell behind a lot of people incredibly quickly, and we were on flat ground! The creeping sensation that this wasn't going to be an easy photography job creeped in.
Along the way to the bottom of the hill, however, there was plenty to see.
Much like the one pictured, the Tenth Floor Team wear long black sleeved uniforms. This helps us blend in during gigs and dark events. Shirley was smart enough to wear the older, white version, and Christina didn't wear one at all! About an hour in, I was feeling the heat a bit too much, so stripped down to a vest. This wasn't even the ascent yet. Unlike the smooth concrete of the city, the loose stone begins to wear away at you. Thank God for the option of light camera equipment perfect for this kind of job!
After making a few new friends and getting some shots, it was time to look up at what we were about to climb. I couldn't believe it, looking into the distance, up that winding path, there were already people half way up. There was no way we were gonna catch them. We just had to try and get as many shots as we could of the groups with the same fitness levels as us.
We were almost at the top of the hill when it became less about photography and more about survival. Imagine I'd still been on 30 cigarettes a day? These 5 months off them has been a blessing.
But there was the big bonus upon reaching the top: Scotland.
People take this country for granted so often simply because they live here. I often find that people romanticise foreign lands just so that they can tell people they have been, even if, well, it was just a bit rubbish. I've been all over Europe, to the USA, to South Africa, and still not a lot of it compares to the beauty of Scotland.
It was time to take it all in at the top. The problem with photography is that you spend so long concentrating behind the lens that you forget to relax and remember where you are. I've tried to change that after I went to New York last year and thought it would be ok to constantly take photos because I had been a few times before. But then you don't remember even being there at all. I missed out on so much because I only saw it through a lens. Similar things happened in Europe last year, but I was more mindful to just leave the camera sometimes. You literally transfer your memory into photos and it's the only way to remember. They should put a warning on the box.
Anyway, although I was conscious I was on a shoot for Bloodwise, I didn't want this incredible experience to slip into a file on my computer and out of my mind. So I rested and got talking to some of the walkers, as well as having some time to myself. Then it was back to work. After all, we had to get down somehow...
I had an overwhelming sense that I might just survive at this point; completely smothered in self pity and the stinging reality of just how unfit I am. Of course, then I remembered just how bad the descent is as you begin using other muscles. I pulled myself together and focused on the little red dots that were Bloodwise T-shirts in what seemed like an eternity away.
I had another burst of energy and was able to power ahead of my team and catch up with some, getting a few more Bloodwisers in shots. There was still a long way to go, I just didn't know it yet, and Christina was struggling now...
Towards the end my body started buckling. Now this was the weirdest thing I've ever felt. The right side of my torso just gave in, so I was walking at a slant. Convinced it was the camera gear, I shifted it about, but nothing. My bad knee went next followed by my back. Yes, I was well aware I looked absolutley ridiculous. Hunched over, leaning to one side and limping. Sexy. No point in going back now though. Well, maybe go back to the gym. Idiot.
We finally reached the end. Once I had confirmed that I hadn't indeed passed over to the afterlife, I sat my gear down with delicious relief and got stuck into some soup. Oh, and a cold pint. Can't believe I almost forgot about the pint.
Much to my amazement, Stacy gave us medals! I wasn't expecting this, as we hadn't raised any money... I was so honoured and pleased. In fact the next day I think I had slightly lost it. I sat at my desk editing photos topless with my medal on... Anyway, now it was time for one last push. Group shots. I gathered people together outside, strapped on 24mm and got the indvidual families with their medals. The atmosphere was incredible.
Something so incredible about attending a shoot like this is the moments where you lower the camera, stop, and remember why you and all these people are there. No doubt everyone there has been affected by cancer, of any form.
I lost my Grandfather when I was 13, followed by my mum at 14, leaving my sister to bring me up at only age 20. Christina lost her mum when she was only 19. You stop and you feel so proud of everyone around you and feel a huge sense of pride that you have been invited to be a part of it. Without people like Stacy and the team at Bloodwise Scotland organising events like this, lifesaving research wouldn't be there, and they should be so proud too.
The pain was worth it, the effort was worth it, and I will remember the voices and strength of all those people standing up to cancer, and walking in remembrance of their loved ones; each with a burden of loss to bear. But standing together.
Let's beat blood cancer.
A MASSIVE CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYONE INVOLVED!!