Monday, 28 May 2012

A Little Preparation Goes A Long Way

Last week, I drove 16 miles to see the Olympic Torch Relay (yes, I'm one of the 5% of the population who isn't within 10 miles of the route.) I'm not particularly sports-orientated, so the Olympics don't interest me that much (not until a Brit gets through to a final heat, anyway), but I did want to see the Olympic Flame - or rather the 'child' of the Olympic Flame, because the 'Mother Flame' is kept in one of the many convey vehicles, in case a torch flame goes out.

I didn't just jump into my car and drive the 16 miles to Ludlow, though. A few days beforehand, I did a bit of research. I looked into the exact route of the torch relay, and made a note of where it was scheduled to be at what time. Because of the rather circuitous route it was taking, I realised that I could find a place to watch it enter Ludlow, and then once it had passed, I could cut through the town and catch it again as It was leaving the town.

This wasn't the only preparation though. I specialise in landscape photography, which means I'm used to putting my camera on a tripod and sorting out everything else whilst the landscape in front of me sits still, patiently. Now, the Olympic Torch Relay wasn't going to hang around for me to get myself sorted. So I spent some time, learning which settings on my camera I was going to need to capture movement, as well as find the setting that allows you to take several images in quick succession - one press of the button and suddenly you have 50 photos (of which, hopefully, one is in focus and sharp!).

With my preparation sorted, I was ready, and on the day in question, managed to get myself set up in the position I'd planned, just as the relay came across the bridge. First came the police cars, followed by the police bikes, and then some more police cars, and then more police bikes, followed by a fire engine (presumably in case the Olympic flame set light to anything it shouldn't have done), then came the police dogs (in a van), then some more police bikes and a couple of more police cars. (Incidentally, the police motorcycle outriders were clearly having fun, blowing whistles whilst riding ... and there was me thinking that it was an offence if you weren't concentrating solely on the road ahead!)

Then, eventually, the official Olympic Torch Relay vehicles arrived ... followed by the sponsors' vehicles!

But, my planning paid off, because finally, the runner with the torch finally arrived!

Oh, by the way, the torch runner is flanked by several Metropolitan Police out-runners, so if anyone living in London is reading this, and you're wondering where half your police force is, then now you know!

Should any of you be planning to see the torch, just bear in mind the following - there's a lot of 'traffic' before the torch - police, olympic relay vehicles, and the sponsor vehicles, then suddenly the torch arrives and within seconds it has gone past.

As soon as the torch had gone by, I left the crowds and began heading back through town, as planned. I had to cross the route again, this time, at the Bull Ring, and did so just as the relay had passed through. Because of the route they were taking, they had further to go, than I did. But even this image here, shows how quickly people began dispersing as soon as the torch had gone by (you can just make out the tail end of the final vehicle in this photo).

With minutes to spare, I managed to get in position again in preparation to see the torch go by on its way out of town.

Moments later, a different runner came around the corner with the torch (thankfully I'd missed all the sponsor vehicles again!).

The point of this post (yes, there is one) is that planning is the key. It can make such a difference. The Olympic Torch was travelling through Ludlow once. I couldn't ask it to go back 300 yards, to give me time to take another photos. Planning is about using your time efficiently. The same goes with our writing too.

It's easy to be excited when we have an idea, and want to start writing it down, there and then. But it's worth taking a few minutes just outlining what it is you want to say. Once you're clear about where you are going, and what you want to say, the actual writing process will become easier. I spent a few minutes planning my photographs for the Olympic Torch Relay, and I got the shots I wanted. Everything worked out how I wanted it to. If you want everything to work out with your writing, a little preparation can go a long way.

Good luck.


  1. The paint jobs on those cars and coaches must have cost a bomb - no wonder it costs so much to hold the Games. Like you I'm not a sports mad person but I will watch some of it when its the only thing on telly - or perhaps we will spend a small fortune on new DVDS ;-)))

  2. As an Ex-Army friend used to say "Time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted" and yes, agreed, sorting out those rarely used camera controls is essential.

  3. Great post Simon, I tried to plan and got to Corve street in Ludlow early but you can never plan for other people's behaviour. Even though I thought I had a great spot, the minute the Torch came down the road everyone ran out in front of me. My instinct was to just get out there and do the same, so I did. Need to improve on my photography skills though as it happend so quickly, I didn't really have the right setting on my camera and as you say this is so important if you want to get the perfect shot.

  4. I'd be tempted to use a high ISO together with a large aperture, to get enough shutter speed to stop the action. But as you say, planning is vital. Good, useful post, with the evidence that you got your shots.