Monday, July 13, 2009

Playing in the great outdoors

click photo to enlarge
According to a recent survey by the National Trust 38% of Britain's children spend less than one hour outside each day, and about a quarter spend more than 14 hours a week in front of a television or a computer screen. In the same survey the favourite memory for the vast majority of parents involved playing outside.

My favourite memory of childhood would also be of playing outside, in my case on the limestone uplands of the Yorkshire Dales: exploring caves, streams and rivers and woods, catching fish, watching wildlife, taking home leaves and flowers to identify. When I was young most children were allowed to roam the area in and around the market town where I lived. It wasn't unusual for a group of us to come across another band of children playing in the fields or on the hills, perhaps making dens out of the scree at the bottom of a cliff. During my walks in that same area today I never see children, either accompanied or unaccompanied. In fact, I don't often see people below the age of forty taking their leisure in the countryside, so perhaps this particular rot set it many years ago!

One of the pleasures of growing up is discovering the beauty that is all around us; the plant and animal life, and the history, that is freely available to us all, almost regardless of where we live. We are so much the poorer if our main experience of the world is mediated through television or computers. Direct experience, looking closely at our surroundings, finding out things for ourselves, experiencing the freedom to wander, is crucial to the rounded development of children, and provides them with enjoyment and healthy activity at very little cost. The safety concerns of parents and society, that lead to children being restricted, are greatly overstated and need to be toned down otherwise today's children, when they are adults, will be citing their favourite memory of childhood as reaching Level X of Computer Game Y!

As I was photographing this track that cuts through a wheatfield on the gently rolling hills near the village of Folkingham, Lincolnshire, I wondered where it went to, and what was at the end of it. As a child I'd have followed it to find out. I'd like to think there are still some village children who are doing that sort of thing today. What appealed to me about this shot was the mutiple lines of the track, the way its arc was almost followed by the line of the clouds, and how the area of blue above nicely echoed the area of dark grass below.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On