Monday, 19 December 2011

The Spirit of Christmas



Winter Festival Fun in George Square, Glasgow

Recently, I ended up in Glasgow for a weekend. Although I have a love of nature, wildlife and the great outdoors I also love big cities and I am very fond of Glasgow. I had read in the papers that there was to be a Sunday Santa Dash for charity involving a couple of thousand Santa look-a-likes running 5km through the streets of the city. Grateful for a bit of photographic inspiration I decided my portfolio could do with some new Christmas and winter images. I mentioned it to my dear wife who immediately turned me off the whole thing by saying, 'What a good idea and we could do some Christmas shopping.' Aaargh...this was not at all what I had planned! I was ready to ditch the whole idea when she added, 'We could go up for the whole weekend and get a room somewhere. That way, I can shop 'til I drop and you can go and take as many photos as you want.' It was, as they say, a result! It wasn't that we didn't see each other over the weekend. We did rendezvous for coffees and meals. She also decided she would like to see the spectacle of a Santa Dash and, if truth be told, she prefers shopping without me anyway. I can't think why! Then the discovery that our niece and a friend were running in the event clinched the deal and off we went.

I knew that Glasgow always does a great winter festival event in George Square and I guessed that there may be some interesting Christmas lights and decorations to photograph. However, I had forgotten that they also have an ice rink, a big illuminated helter-skelter, chair-o-plane (which I believe is called a 'chair swing ride' or 'wave swinger' in some countries), and a big wheel. Ever since the unveiling of the London Wheel, or Millennium Wheel as it was originally known, it seems that every aspiring city needs a big wheel! I checked out a few locations around the square where I thought I would get the best pictures and then it was a case of killing time until it got dark and everything came to life. It seemed like a good chance to have a browse around a few shops alone to get some inspiration for my other half's Christmas. I was just about to leave George Square to head for the shops in Buchanan Street when my mobile phone rang and my dear wife's face filled the screen. She was in a jewellers shop and had seen something that would be 'just perfect' as her Christmas present from 'yours truly'. Experience has told me to check the price before acceding to this seemingly innocuous and remarkably convenient request. However, rather astonishingly, it was quite reasonable and I muttered something about how I would miss the fun of browsing the shops and using my imagination! I pressed the 'end call' button and, as her lovely face disappeared back into the miniscule circuitry from whence it had come, I muffled a cry of joy. It was time for coffee and then not long until it got dark.

There were several other photographers up to the same thing as me that evening and we exchanged pleasantries, told each other about interesting vantage points we had found and got our respective shots. I concentrated on the ice rink, trying to capture the movement of the groups of skaters along with the whole feeling of Christmas and winter fun. There was a great atmosphere and as we headed back to our hotel for a nice meal I was reasonably confident that I had managed to get some decent pictures. My wife was reasonably confident that she had got most of the presents and, looking at the vast array of shopping bags, I was more than confident that it would be reflected in our next bank statement!

Ice Skating in George Square, Glasgow

The following morning it was a case of being up for an early breakfast and heading back to George Square to get a good position near to the start / finish line for the big Santa Dash. Soon the entire area was awash with red suited, white bearded Santas in an incredible variety of sizes, sexes (well only two - to the best of my knowledge), and shapes. Some were even pushing buggies with children in them! There were the obvious serious runners, the charity runners, the fun runners and those at the back who were most definitely not runners of any kind! The weather was kind, the sun shone and it was great to see so many children getting into the Christmas spirit. I took my pictures, trying again to capture the movement, colour and excitement of the spirit of Christmas. Then we met up with my niece and her friends and headed off for another coffee and mince pies. It was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Santa Dash, Glasgow

It was now Sunday afternoon and my wife decided another couple of hours at the shops was essential before we headed home. I noticed some interesting characters in winter costumes passing through the crowds around George Square and I wanted to get a few more shots. 

The Ice Queen


Jack Frost


















I was concentrating on the Ice Queen and Jack Frost when another character, looking rather like a giant snowflake, ambled alongside and we started chatting. I commented that her accent certainly wasn't local and I inquired which part of the world she came from. She replied 'Iceland!' I asked if she was being serious or was she just being 'in character'. 'No, no I am from Iceland. We are all from Iceland,' she said nodding towards her winter comrades. 'Really?' I asked again not sure if she was being entirely truthful. 'Yes, absolutely,' she replied. 'We are here because we come from Iceland.' 'That's fantastic,' I said. 'I've always wanted to go to Iceland and its on my wish list of places to visit.' 'You will love it,' she added, smiling through the giant snowflake surrounding her head.  I explained that one of the main reasons I wanted to go was because I was a wildlife photographer and Iceland offered some great opportunities. 'It certainly does. It's a photographers' paradise,' she said and for someone like you, you will love it. 'There are penguins, polar bears and ...' I interrupted, ' there are no penguins in Iceland!' She looked at me with her sparkling blue eyes through snow encrusted lashes. 'There are in our Iceland,' she said and she turned and walked away.

For me, that summed up the magic of Christmas. Wherever you are and whatever you believe in, have a...
Very Merry Christmas.

Two Santas from Glasgow's Santa Dash



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Articles and photography copyright of Tom Langlands