Photographing the sport of pelota, Ezcaray, La Rioja

Tuesday March 22nd, 2011 04:23 PM

Pelota Ezcaray La Rioja

For some time now I’ve been meaning to find out about pelota, a sport which essentially combines squash and fives and is to all extent and purposes the national game of La Rioja, Navarra and the Basque Country. Driving round northern Spain I’ve regularly been taken aback by these enormous courts, which dominate small villages and dwarf the local church.

So I was delighted when the Diario La Rioja asked me to photograph an important game in Ezcaray last Friday. The doubles game, a semi-final in the professional league, was noteworthy as three of the four players come from Ezcaray itself.

Due to it being live on TV, it didn’t start until 10.15pm. My deadline for the paper was 11.30pm meaning I had just over an hour to take the photos, sort them, process them and email them in. It was like working the night shift at the Guardian once again where time seems to speed up as deadline approaches. Do the basics well and remember to keep breathing. That was what used to get me through.

So, needless to say, I didn’t have time to savour the game nor even work out the scoring. I had to leave before the end with the tension in the stadium rising and just when I was beginning to get into the groove. But I saw enough to get the bug and I’ll definitely be back.

Pelota Ezcaray La Rioja

Pelota Ezcaray La Rioja

Pelota Ezcaray La Rioja

Pelota Ezcaray La Rioja

You can run but you can’t hide

Tuesday April 20th, 2010 03:14 PM

El Puerto de Santander, Cantabria

Somewhat surprisingly, I received a call yesterday from one of my old bosses at the Guardian, asking if I was free to do some reporting from Santander on the Cantabrian coast. With British airspace closed since before the weekend due to the Icelandic volcanic explosion, thousands of holidaymakers have been stranded in Spain for days trying to find a way back home. Many hundreds found a stand-by place on the Pont Aven, a ferry which left Santander last night bound for Portsmouth.

Stragglers continued to trickle in even after the ship had left harbour. One man I spoke to had been stuck in Málaga since Thursday. He had driven 12 hours hoping to get yesterday’s ferry but missed it by minutes. Santander is such a beautiful city that – though I didn’t tell him at the time – it seemed like a blessing in disguise. He’ll be able to enjoy its not inconsiderable charms today while waiting for the next sailing tomorrow.

The report I contributed to is here. I only had time to snatch a couple of quick pictures as I had to file my copy to the paper. Note to self: go back to Santander soon.

El Puerto de Santander, Cantabria, España

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Sunday March 21st, 2010 08:38 PM

James Hislop, un director de noche, Guardian, King's Place, London

James Hislop, el editor de noche, cambiando paginas. Guardian, London

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Roosevelt’s phrase was very much on my mind when, at the end of last year, I was in a “Where next?” and “What next” frame of mind.

Our seven years in London have been good ones. We’ve had a lovely home and neighbourhood in Brockley; been married and had two charming kids. And I’ve been proud and privileged to work at The Guardian.

A reporter for the past 12 years – a third of my life – and it is truly engrained in who I am. I’ve been fortunate to have an employer whose world values are not that different from my own. Every day has been different and saying good-bye last week was not easy. I’ll miss the access to those who make decisions which affect people’s lives, and trying to hold them to account. And I’ll miss many of my often-inspiring colleagues.

But I’m also lucky as, by having a Spanish wife, I’ve been aware for some time that there are other worlds out there. Places without seven million neighbours; where’s there’s always time for a glass of Rioja, and you don’t need to drive or take a train to escape the smoke.

And so it’s time for a change. Our move to rural Spain, not far from Logroño, will give me the chance to learn again. There’s the challenge of a new culture, improving my Spanish and working for myself as a photographer.

However, to me, my documentary style photography is not that different from my journalism. It’s telling a story through images rather than words.

Here are a few photos from my last week at the Guardian.

Meeting editorial de mañana, The Guardian, London

Reunión editorial, The Guardian, London

Prensa vieja, The Guardian, King's Place, London

Prensa vieja, The Guardian, King's Place, London

Edificio de The Guardian, King's Place, London

Edificio de The Guardian, King's Place, London

Edificio de The Guardian, King's Place, London

Edificio de The Guardian, King's Place, London