Jul 8, 2008

Steinstossen & Schwingen — and the case of one lens love

On Saturday I traveled to Frances, the eastern-most town in Pacific County, to photograph Schwingfest, which is an gathering and celebration of Swiss folks and their traditions. This is the second year I've shot the event, so of course I wanted to go about it a little differently this time around. Last year I concentrated solely on the Schwingen, which is a Swiss wrestling tournament and is the main attraction. This year I tried to get photos that were representative of the whole day. I love shooting these kinds of cultural events that aren't contrived and just fun.

I arrived in the mid-afternoon, just as the last two rounds of Schwingen were getting underway. I planted myself along the edge of the wood chip-filled wrestling ring and started shooting action. Photos like this were easy to make.

I quickly decided that I wanted to start finding moments that were not action-related but told the story of those taking part.

A little while later I found exactly what I was looking for. Ernie Cardin and his girlfriend Corrina Wilson made for some good photos, like when Alex Muller was joking and teasing them about their plans for the dance later in the evening.

A little later after one of his matches I found her brushing the wood chips from his face while he was trying to kiss her.

Back to the ring, I started looking for moments that would take place during the matches but were not necessarily action shots, like here with Fritz Kaech.

The final match for the championship pitted two giants of men against each other, with Nathan Aufmauer winning. I was told by someone prior to the match that is was tradition to lift up the winner and carry him around the ring after the match. I was ready for it, but I don't think those doing the lifting were, as they only had him up for a quarter turn around the ring.

I like finding scene-setters, something that gives a feel for space and the people within it. I found this scene prior to the start of the stone toss.

The stone toss, or Steinstossen as it is known in Switzerland, is not as big a deal it seems as the wrestling, but it still made for some interesting pictures. Rudy Kaech Jr., who was disappointed with his wrestling outcome seemed to take some of that aggression out on the 30-plus pound rock.

While the winner in the mens portion of the competition had a best throw of 26 feet, Alicia Richardson won the women's side with a toss of 12-6. An interesting note, in the Steinstossen competitions in Switzerland the stone can weigh upward of 160 pounds.

While waiting for the culminating event of the evening, the Swiss dance, I was walking around the grounds and found these teens hanging out. I was surprised by the classical proficiency of the boy playing the piano, as he was wooing the ladies with Beethoven tunes.

The ender of the evening was the dance, which unfortunately I couldn't stay around for that late. I thought it was supposed to start at 8 but it was closer to 9 before it really got underway. Of course this didn't matter to those dancing, as they went on until the early hours of the morning.

An interesting note: All of the photos that made my final edit from this assignment were all shot with the same lens, a 35mm F2, which on a DX digital SLR camera has a focal range closer to that of a 50mm lens. I didn't really intend for this, as I did shoot some with my wide zoom and a telephoto, but for some reason I just liked what these ones looked like. I don't know if its that old Zen attitude I was exuding last week, or the fact that because of what happened last week I have less equipment to think about or use, but it just felt right. I guess some will complain that there isn't enough lensing variety, but thats fine. There's been many photogs over the yers who shot solely with one lens and did alright. I don't know, I've just had this lens on my camera a lot lately and it feels right for the stuff I'm shooting. I assume that it will change at some point here when that lens choice just won't work, but for now, it seems like the right choice. I don't know, what do you think?

Also, another interesting note: On the way home I was hit by a deer. Yes, that's written correctly. I know it is fairly common for those driving in rural areas to hit deer, but this time it was the other way around. I was coming out of Raymond on a dark corner and then all of a sudden there was a deer running into the side of my car. It crunched up the whole driver side of the car (even leaving a few hairs of deer fur behind) but we were both alright I guess. I got out afterward pretty freaked out and was surprised (and relieved) that the deer was gone. Pretty wild stuff. Later on the drive home I slowed down for two more deer in the road and a baby fox on the shoulder...


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