Richmond Park – learning to take photos

On a beautiful sunny day, late in the summer of 1969, we took a family trip to Richmond Park.  By that time we had moved twice since 1968 and lived in a small flat in West Hampstead.  It wasn’t too far to travel to Richmond, but I have no memory of the journey, or if we went by bus, train or both.

Richmond-Park-005

Richmond Park, so close to the tower blocks, yet full of rural beauty.  Photo nathan-harrison.com

My new little sister, Suzy, was about 18 few months old, so it was probably a bit of a hassle for our Mum & Dad, needing to take all the things a young child needs during the day.  We also took a large blanket to lay on the grass and a picnic lunch – there weren’t any McDonalds or Burger King take-away outlets until the mid 1970s – so it was sandwiches and a flash of tea, and Ribeana or something similar for me.  It turned into a very memorable day out, partly  because we have photos of the day that reinforce the memories, but for me I will always remember it as the day I learned to take photographs.

Richmond Park, the largest walled park in the UK, is one of the 8 Royal Parks of London, with its origins dating back to 1625, when the King, Charles I, brought the Royal Court to Richmond palace when plague was spreading through London.  The park grew out of an area set aside for hunting deer.  Charles I upset locals by enclosing the area with a wall, that is still standing today.  Public right of way was allowed and that has continued for most of its history, but was established by Act of Parliament in 1872.  It has been a popular recreational area for many years, a place to escape the city and enjoy a picnic, walking and cycling, with cycle ways around the park.  During the 2012 Olympics in London the road race cycle courses passed through the park.

It is remains home to over 600 deer, both Red Deer and Fallow Deer.  The deer are free to roam large parts of park and due to the high number of daily visitors they are fairly tame, although they still need to be treated with care and caution, and people are discouraged from feeding them or getting too close.  Sometime during that summer afternoon, back in 1969, when the sun was high in the sky, my Dad did a quick scout out of the area around where we had settled, leaving Mum, me and little Suzy laying on the blanket in the sun.  He came back all excited, saying that he had discovered we were fairly close to the lake at the centre of the park, where the deer came to cool down and drink.

He quickly rummaged in a bag for his trusty camera, an Ilford Sporti he had bought in 1959 and invited me to come with him and see the deer.  We walked a short distance through some fairly long grass and small bushes and trees, before we approached the lake.  Dad encouraged me to be quiet and we followed the edge of the lake for  a few more yards as he found some bushes to help hide us from the deer.  Not much happened for a while and I was soon bored of looking at the sun glinting off the water and became restless, wanting to run around and explore.  But Dad kept me calm for a little longer and we were suddenly rewarded with the approach of a group of around 20 Red Deer.

As they waded into the water Dad pointed out that we were downwind from them, so if we were quiet and moved slowly they wouldn’t be disturbed by our presence.  Then he took the first photograph of the group of deer.  Looking at the photos now I can’t be certain of the order in which they were taken but I know that the second two pictures I had a hand in taking.  Dad showed me how to use the viewfinder to aim the camera and how to press the shutter release button carefully so as not to shake the camera.  With that simple lesson I was introduced to the world of photography and have remained fascinated with it ever since.

The following three pictures are the photos from that encounter with the Red Deer of Richmond Park, on a summers day in 1969.  I scanned the originals some years ago and used the free software Photoscape to sharpen and very lightly enhance the tone.  Two of them also had small marks on the cloud and sky which I was able to remove with some careful restoration, again using Photoscape.  For more information on how to scan and restore old photos see my earlier ‘how to guides‘.

Deer - Richmond 1968 - 3

Deer - Richmond (1968) - 2a

Deer - Richmond (1968) - 1b

Whilst my encounter with the deer that day went very calmly and without incident, this was largely due to my Dad’s experience with the deer of Richmond Park.  Mum and Dad used to visit the park regularly and even photographed the odd deer close up, as can be seen in the black and white photo below, from around 1960.

File0034

Not everyone has such a calm relaxing experience, especially if they take a disobedient dog with them.  I am of course referring to Fenton and his outraged owner who together became a huge internet sensation in late 2011.

I have shared two videos in the previous post, to keep the videos separate from this post.  The first one is a clip of the news reports about the web viral status that the second clip received.  The second clip is the full uncensored version by the original uploader.

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4 comments on “Richmond Park – learning to take photos

  1. Photos do an excellent job of preserving memories. I have gone on numerous trips across the western US with my parents. Luckily, my father was somewhat into photography and documented many of our trips. I wonder now if I would have had such fond and vivid memories if not for the photos.

    I also appreciate you sharing your first experience with photography. Such a touching father and son story.

    • Thank you for taking a look at this post. This is what my nostalgia blog is all about, memories, aided in almost every case by family snaps. Most are not great photography, but a record of events now long ago, just as your family photos are.

      If people preserve many of the photos taken now, with the huge range of devices available, there should be an interesting record of our times for future generations, but I believe that most will not be kept, or at least not treasured as our old photos are now.

      I will be posting more photography stories in future, including articles about the cameras I have used right back to the 1960s. I may also set up a separate photo blog to share photos I take now with a compact digital camera and some of my better ones from the 35mm film era that I have scanned too. I don’t feel they fit in here with all the nostalgia stuff.

  2. Another lovely family post and beautiful photo’s! The black and white is stunning. There is something very lovely about old colour photo’s though, their muted colours, the slight graininess. I have never heard of photoscape and admit to being a photoshop nerd. I inherited a huge box of old family photo’s dating back to the 1920’s that I have painstakingly scanned and restored via photoshop but there is still something special about looking through the original battered and torn photo’s.

    • Yes I know exactly what you mean about the old photos. Until I scanned them many of our photos that weren’t in albums were boxed in a treasured, but slightly battered cardboard box, that had seen many different homes over the years. I have got used to the photos on screen now, but I am still getting used to seeing them online. It is slightly surreal, seeing old familiar snaps large and on a website. Your collection sounds fascinating.

      Photoscape is fairly good, compared to Photoshop, which I have used as well. Photoscape is ideal for those without the money or knowledge to fully use Photoshop to do quite a bit, but obviously for proper effects, especially on digital camera images, you really need Photoshop.

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