an acquaintance of mine, one with whom i've not been in touch for many a long year, has embarked upon a project entitled documenting life on the isle of islay. this undertaking is part of his work as a canon cameras ambassador, and while sharing the link to his current work with islay's professional photographer, i was informed that this recent visit to islay involved using the new canon 5d.
as midge ure once sang 'that means nothing to me.'
though i have viewed the canon and nikon advertisements in the weekend colour supplements with thoughts of improving my own photographic abilities, i know for a fact that this would be simply a case of spending money to no real practical result. for starters, my aging blue lumix compact camera fits perfectly into a jersey back pocket, something a digital slr has pretty much no chance of achieving. secondly, and perhaps just as importantly, by the time i'd figured out all the lcd information displayed on the top, the real world would have moved on by several hours.
but apart from all that, i've no real notions of taking photos other than those deemed necessary for washingmachinepost reviews.
so while i may be tangentially impressed by the macho looking cameras and lenses in the ads, in actual fact i know a lot less than my photoshop skills would have most folks believe. i therefore relied on the chap at islay studios to enlighten me to the fact that the canon camera used by the canon ambassador fellow has a 50 megapixel capability. compare that with the six megapixels offered by the slightly careworn lumix, and even if you don't understand such matters, you have to realise that 50 is deemed to be more capable than six.
yet, according to informed opinion, those extra 44 million pixels do not necessarily add up to a photograph seven times better than that contained in my back pocket. how many publications are you aware of that resemble a wallpaper sample book, with a need for images that would cover both pages?
somewhat smaller in physical size, but every bit equal in stature is bloomsbury's beautiful publication entitled hinault. in fact, such is the stature of the rider named in large, white sans serif type on the cover, overlying an image of the badger in full flight, that there is no need to add either his first name or any further reference to inform the unwary.
hinault has always seemed one of those individuals who entered public life as a fully constituted patron; never a rider content to sit at the back of the peloton awaiting encouragement from his elders and betters at the business end of the pack. no doubt there were days when this was the case, but you need only flick through the majority of these fabulously reproduced images to appreciate hinault's aura being every bit as forceful on the printed page, as was no doubt the case in real life.
robert millar, in the 1985 granada tv documentary 'the high life' makes mention that he is impressed by hinault as a rider, but less so as a person. however, to quote from chapter four, "i race to win, not to please people." of course, following such a philosophy to its logical conclusion does not necessarily bring about a state of mutual exclusivity. the more hinault won, the more his team managers, sponsors, fans and france at large was likely to be pleased. he has frequently been compared with the great eddy merckx in several different ways. granted the belgian won far more races, but hinault achieved many of his own victories with similar displays of physical prowess and domination.
as this book reaches its final few pages, there is a glorious photo of the cannibal and the badger astride a tandem. the caption says it all: "merckx and hinault, who between them have ten tour victories, eight giros, three vueltas and several other major victories..."
the book's narrative, fighting manfully for equality midst the overwhelming power of the images (and largely achieving it), reads precisely as i have described; a narrative. think of those tv documentaries with a stately voice-over, then read each chapter with this mental audio accompaniment, and you'll see exactly what i mean.
"Zoetemelk makes another all-or-nothing attempt on the side of the Dutch Mountian, Alpe d'Huez. It pays off and Joop comes away with a stage win. The recapture of the lead, however, is fended off by a solid Hinault. The remaining spark of Dutch hope snuffed out."
it's a style of writing that works brilliantly, accompanied by the stunning imagery; a symbiotic relationship perhaps. there's a real sense of being involved in the very middle of an ongoing documentary, hinault's retirement from racing in november 1986 notwithstanding. this is a superb testament to a marvellous career, a repeat of which france still waits with bated breath almost thirty years later. despite many of the images taken in the days of black and white, seguing smoothly into colour, every one of them was captured on film. no pixels were involved, yet the atmosphere and sense of presence outweighs many a contemporary digital photo, 50 megapixels or not.
there are no negative criticisms applicable to this grand publication. from the foreword by bernard hinault himself, through tim bisschop's graphically superior layout of both text and images, to rebekah wilson's english translation and bloomsbury's quality presentation, it is every bit as impressive as hinault himself.
along with similarly styled books on coppi and merckx, this is a volume that no serious fan of professional cycle racing should let slip by. due for publication on 9 april, perhaps you can persuade your other half as to just how apposite an easter present this would be.
"There haven't been many people who've had a career quite as phenomenal as Bernard Hinault's, there are even fewer people who've left such an overwhelming impression on their colleagues, and there's barely a sportsman around who stopped when they were at the top. Bernard Hinault did it all."
thursday 26 march 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................