On Being Long-listed: Penguin ‘Summer Wayfarer’

Wow.

I’ve been long-listed!

What more can I say! When I started writing my 500 word submission for the competition and begun waking up at the break of dawn, wandering around the outskirts (and inserts) of Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow I had no idea it would come to this.

When my computer started to blue-screen, as I begun to realise the difficult, inflexible nature of full-time employment (albeit, an internship), and when my editing program calmly informed me that I’d apparently filmed in two different frame rates and that this would effect its overall display, I began to lose hope. ‘What was I doing?’ I thought, this task is beyond me. I’m just a twenty-something ‘wannabe’. A try-hard. Then, as more and more fantastic video’s begun to make their way onto Penguin’s ajourneyonfoot.com site I became increasingly aware of the talent of the other applicants.

Dead tree at Covehithe/Benacre.
Dead tree at Covehithe/Benacre.

There are some fantastic contributions up there, from Emma Musty’s exotic camera placement to John Nugent’s approachable, humorous video, I felt surrounded by individuals that really knew their way around video media – they’d brought friends along for the ride and even had the relevant equipment to hand – but I’d approached it in a very different way. As I edited my video and put it all together I became increasingly concerned; maybe I should have got others to film me – I certainly knew people that would (and could), maybe I should have asked that friend if I could use that super camera, or got that film group I knew to lend me one of theirs. But I didn’t.

I wanted to be honest about what I had and what I was capable of, after all, should I be chosen to be Penguin’s ‘Summer Wayfarer’ I assume I’d be left alone to explore and share my experiences. Penguin would provide me with a better filming device (I’d hope!) and lend me some advice on how to use it and what works best, but otherwise I’ll be out in the wilderness, comfortable in my loneliness, sharing my dinners with the sunset and with you, wherever ‘you’ are!

I was always an odd photographer – I remember the old wind up film camera I had when I was a child and how I’d taken pictures of the ducks whilst leaning out of the window of a caravan. They’d congregate by the steps outside, quacking and ruffling their feathers looking for scraps of bread from those on holiday and, if you failed to give them something within ten minutes or so they’d waddle off in a huff, shaking their tail feathers. You couldn’t take pictures of them from the door because as soon as it opened they’d dart away for fear of being hit by bread. It was only when the door was closed that they’d return, and I, leaning out of the window, would snap them in their muddy playfulness – squabbling over the scraps my dad had tossed outside.

I remember that holiday well, for that was the same week my camera died and I failed to replace it. I’d lost all of the pictures I’d shot in that short time, and I remember thinking I’d taken some beautiful pictures (though probably hadn’t), and I ended up blaming technology. I didn’t want a camera after that – I mean, what a waste of time that was taking pictures only to have them all cruelly taken away from at the last moment. I had eyes. I had ears, and hands, and a voice – could I not translate these images into words? Could I not remember instead of snap?

Flowers are pretty in, and of, themselves.
Flowers are pretty in, and of, themselves.

Perhaps this is where I have found my support (for my video is far from fantastic considering the other contributions!), from writers and from readers? From fellow hikers and walkers that, perhaps, are not keen on the overly romantic view some filmmakers (and photographers) take of our natural environment. Sweeping angles of the British coast, the blissful white shine of Dover’s cliffs, the fresh thick green of a leafy canopy dappled with sunspots (bokeh, of course) have become an uncomfortable norm. We add filters to everyday photographs; lo-mo, blur, sepia, borders and lose the images essence – the honesty of the image and of the moment we find ourselves caught up in.

Today, we can manufacture images and the idiom I won’t believe it until I see it with my own eyes no longer necessarily stands true. We muck in and we muddle, configurate and obfuscate our words, our pictures, and even ourselves in everyday life. I can appreciate and understand the attraction to romantic images, words and photographs, but when that romanticism – when that synthetic purity – obscures the image itself then we do the original image a disservice and encourage illusion. Falsehood. Whereas I’m keen on the rawness of nature – of it’s power to present itself to all of us as it is without needing to be emphasised or accentuated. The proud stance of a crisp tulip is beautiful as it is, in it’s place, of its moment moreso than, perhaps, an altered image could convey.

My secret place at the UEA - I'd sneak off here between seminars...
My secret place at the UEA – I’d sneak off here between seminars…

I am an ordinary gentleman, a person like anyone else with no intention of appearing otherwise and I wish to present my experiences in that way; to relish in the extraordinary essence of nature itself and to try and translate that through the experience it provides me. It is about balance and about respect, not about artificiality.

I would like to thank my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, ex-lecturers, teachers, comrades and family for voting for me in the last few days – you’ve all done a fabulous job! I was not ready for the reception I have received and, in fact, it makes me feel a little uncomfortable! I would like to encourage you all to view my video here and, if you like what you see (though, I’d like to remind you, I’m hoping for a camera should I be chosen!) then please click the vote tab under the video. I’d be eternally grateful.

Also, if you haven’t already, you can get in touch with me @haydenwbell on Twitter. I love chatting, so talk to me. 🙂

One more:

Oulton Broad
Oulton Broad
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