Iain Geddes, one of Camping & Caravanning's technical team joined hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts in the Peaks for a weekend of discovery and enjoyment in the great outdoors.
Alpkit is a well-established and respected outdoor brand with a great range of kit.
Perhaps less well known is the company does some charitable works supporting outdoor activity through its own foundation. The team at Alpkit are quite a sociable bunch too, and this latter part is most apparent at its annual Big Shakeout festival.
Held at Thornbridge Outdoors in Derbyshire, the event is much more than a spot of camping with music and food and drink, there’s plenty of activities on offer too, and I went along to take a look.
An avid photographer for much of my adult life, though I’ve not been particularly good, I was keen to try adventure photography – one of the School of Adventure activities available.
The course instructor’s was Alex Ekins, a long-established outdoor photojournalist. He’s a qualified outdoor guide too.
He runs the course at two levels of equipment – camera and smartphone.
I asked him about the latter and he was keen to point out that he used a phone a great deal in his own work. Alex said: “They’re light, compact and convenient,” he added, “the quality from them has come on, the images might not be good enough for use in large prints and magazine double-page spreads but they certainly have a place.”
I chose the camera version of the course and a small group of us mustered together to start.
Alex started with a brief presentation of his work and then encouraged us to say who we were, what we wanted from the session and what camera we would use.
There was a mixture of compact cameras, new mirrorless system cameras and bulkier digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLR). Alex was keen to play down the idea that any camera was better than another, citing his own experience of having to haul heavy pro kit up mountains was not a pleasant task. Creativity, a little work and experimentation are far more important than the number of megapixels according to Alex.
Alex set us our challenge – to use the venue to take five photographs capturing elements of the Big Shakeout:
portrait of a host or participant(s)
An action shot
A picture with a clear view of the Alpkit brand
A wider image to show the event scale
Another activity taking place
I wandered around the Big Shakeout for an hour or so trying my best to capture something unique and imaginative.
I shot many pictures for each subject and in most instances I believe I delivered.
For the portrait Josh Sutton, or The Guyrope Gourmet as he is also known, was a willing volunteer. He posed with knife in hand as he prepared for his first session of the day.
My action picture was a chance moment which was flash lit. An assault course was being set up and I simply asked: “I need to take picture, can you do your thing?” He immediately went into a handstand on the bar and that’s what I got.
Alpkit branding was everywhere but I wanted to add a sense of fun on the day. A small group of children were leaping off straw bales and using the continuous shutter on the camera I captured a boy mid-leap onto an Alpkit cushion.
For a more wide and encompassing picture I tried taking lots of wide angle pictures to show groups but these were indistinct, closing in on the crafts going on in a yurt worked well, slow shutter and hand-held, this was the most technically challenging.
For my additional activity my strongest ended up being the climbing wall, by getting close and looking up at a climber enhanced the size of the obstacle.
Alex spent time praising and critiquing the group’s work in a fair and balanced way. He was confident Alpkit would be interested in using some of the pictures to promote the next event.
What I got from the activity was an improved confidence to work with people and how, in some otherwise apparently un-interesting moment, just changing the way you look at it a little can transform the scene.
Other Big Shakeout workshops included: Nordic walking, how to bikepack, trail runs, how to upcycle old camping gear, drumming, campsite cuisine and much more.
Alpkit’s Big Shakeout returns in 2020.
Don’t miss Iain’s second Blog from the Big Shakeout coming soon…
To see Alpkit's range of outdoor kit head online.