Monday, December 13, 2010

Climbing the north face of the high street

click photo to enlarge
"Our Himalayan suit will keep you alive in minus 40, minus 50 degrees. Not so many people are going to go to Everest but you can trust we are going to keep you dry even if it's only while you walk the dog."
Timo Schmidt-Eisenhart, head of European division of North Face outdoor clothing company (quoted in The Guardian, 11th December 2010)

The other day I was laughing at and lamenting Toyota's advertising pitch for its 4X4 vehicles. Their suggestion that because they are the only manufacturer to make an off-road vehicle that has journeyed to the North Pole then you should buy one for whizzing about the roads and lanes of Britain seemed to me risible. And then, a couple of days later I read an article about North Face and how their clothing, which includes some that is designed for climbing etc, is a fashion hit on the high street because of, to quote one of the authors, "the discreet badge of masculinity the logo confers." Ridiculous, but probably right. People are daft enough to swallow the line spun by such companies. In fact it appears to be a basic marketing approach across a range of consumer products. You want to sell cameras? Get a high-end model into use by professionals then sell the consumer models on the back of it. How about a family saloon? Take the body shell of your mass-production model, gut it, re-engine it, change everything except the basic shape, compete in rallying or some other form of motorsport, then use the resulting images and associations (and trophies if you happen to be successful) to sell your mainstream cars to the man in the street. There are plenty of men (and increasingly women) who will buy cars on this basis. Ludicrous or what?

I was wearing no discreet badge of masculinity from North Face or any other "top brand" when I took today's photograph. In fact, the temperature was a couple of degrees above zero, and felt positively balmy compared with previous days. My subject is the Italianate pool and the classical loggia of the war memorial in the grounds of Ayscoughfee Hall, Spalding. The ice shows signs of melting, but it was several inches thick and so needed a good few days of higher temperatures before it became home once more to the mallard that were huddled on the bank nearby. The memorial building is by Edwin Lutyens who was also responsible for the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. It is a fine piece of work that I must make the subject of a future blog post. Incidentally, the grounds of Ayscoughfee Hall are now public gardens with a cafe etc, and the unusual and wonderful name has prompted me to suggest, on more than one occasion, that we should have an "Ayscoughfee cafe coffee", a remark that usually provokes groans and pitying looks in my companions.

I seem to have taken a lot of contre jour shots lately, and have probably done enough to fulfill the pledge I made a few months ago to do more of this kind of shot.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On