“The trick is to keep it steady” says Valerie as the camera’s LCD display keeps showing a steady flow of blurry, grainy messed-up photo ops.
The fair was set up in the grounds of the old Sheffield College. Bright shining lights illuminated the faces of different paintings of artists and celebrities, with various degrees of accuracy. 50 Cent looked okay, Robbie Williams looked like a soulless ghoul (“accurate” said the Gary Barlow fans)and Elton John looked like a wax figurine (no quip here).
Valerie had tweeted about going to the fair and practise some shutter speeds. Since she actually read a camera manual, I consider her the better photographer. It was a perfect opportunity as the late afternoon sparsely clouded sky yielded some interesting hues and tones to the pics.
To be honest, I just wanted to learn what the frijoles did the “f” thingy in my camera meant. It’s set on “shutter mode” (uh?), the display on the screen reads “1/16” and my face is blank. What was my excuse for not reading the flippin’ manual?
Oh, yeah, the chest thumping one. “I’m a rough and tough dude, instructions are to be disregarded until the camera goes Peléan on me”.
We walk for a bit around the grounds and lament that the soles of our shoes aren’t thicker; many a jagged rock rendered our feet like J.C.’s after he walked out of that crypt after a 3-day hangover.
I’m going to hell for that joke.
There’s the ubiquitous “scary ride” and the good thing about those ones are the light shows outside, in the tin and plastic amalgamation that passes as a façade. The ride’s exterior gives me a few good shots, including one of the Grim Reaper surrounded by shades of green and blinking stroboscopic eyes. The lucky claw machines, with their red structures and natural light bulbs, look like the perfect place for a smug self-portrait. Valerie refuses to help with the photo, as she thinks I’m trying to get a photo of her.
My friend Russ always said “women, can’t live with them, can’t play mixed singles without them”. Selah.
Ah, the catch of the day! Our first good set of photos (not a match of tennis, though). We get some great shots outside of a ride called ‘Sizzler’. Blurs of blue and red and purple look like trippy contrails in the ground. Or like Nyan Cat breaking the speed limit.
We walk a little more around the place and arrive at this really tiny pool, where the tiniest of boats are floating. That’s where the lil’ nippers can practise hostile takeovers, I guess. We meet with Val’s friend, Kayleigh, and we now get more shots, as it’s the magic hour, that time between dusk and night. This is where photos get interesting. A couple of shots at 1/8 and 6” yield positive results, not so much the ones in 2”. I also find out that the “ meant seconds, so I guess I should get my geography/science degree stripped away.
Venus and Jupiter are shining like a couple of lovelorn fireflies. I think for a moment how I came to such a crap analogy but don’t wallow too much in it. Valerie snaps me out from my meta moment and offers to take some shots too.
Now, every woman’s bag has always seemed like the TARDIS to me: bigger in the inside and with a hungry, maniacal Sontaran roaming inside. She produces the world’s smallest tripod, which, after a few latches being moved, becomes a regular sized one. Quite sturdy too. Swear to God, she moonlights as a sniper. We take photos of stars, the swirling attractions near us and a crazy attraction with Not-Jiminy Cricket on top, spewing fog every ten minutes, much to our amusement. Also to our amusement was the absolute saturation of photographers with tripods (non-collapsible) that seemed to happen in less than a minute.
Then we collectively do a mistake. Valerie wants to go into a ride. Kayleigh clearly refuses Valerie’s choice. Why? Valerie wants to go into the one with (Sir) Elton John. The thing looks brutal. I offer myself to ride shotgun as a) I’m a gentleman and b) I was born without a self-preservation instinct.
The ride, let’s call it The Sickenator because that’s the actual scientific name (Valdés, 2012) is the main example of why Walt Disney made his parks (mostly) family friendly. I actually felt the sickest I’ve been in my life and just thinking about it while writing this makes me sick. Think of it as the Inception of rides: it’s a spinning car spinning on an axle on an spinning platform that elevates up to a 45 degree angle.
“Dizzy” is an understatement. A good ten minutes are spent fighting the need to die vomiting our guts out. We take a few moon shots (all rubbish) and stumble down hill, back to the cold streets of Sheffield. We say goodbye to Kayleigh and go into that refuge, The Rutland Arms. The place is packed and I feel real sick again. Valerie waits in the beer garden while I try to do a sick, but a spot of aromatherapy helps me out. By this I mean: smelling the funky hand soap actually stopped me from being sick. Hallelujah. Knowing is half the battle.
We sit idly for 20 minutes in the darkness of the beer garden, eavesdropping a couple of boozehounds talking about the economy, being on benefits and life being grey in general. The place is still packed so we just call it a day, taking the bus back uphill, to that section of Sheffield where clouds and buses live in harmony (or in a very cold war). I walk Valerie home and then make my way downhill. The sky is now foggy, the wind turns the cold bitter and unforgiving. A thick layer of fog surprises me, descending like a bat out of hell. I can see bits and bobs of fog travelling real fast by the street lights.
The night was so very clear and now it’s a cold, confusing walk back home. Then it starts to hail…
Words: Sam “can’t write an ending to save my life” Valdés