Our UKC Photo of the Week has been hotly contested over the years and typically features a striking landscape or a well-posed action shot. Last week, however, our latest winner Mark Sharratt (mark s) uploaded a candid photo that stood out as being both a little different and aptly timed with Father's Day falling on Sunday. 'The joys of taking your family climbing' received a 5 star rating in 23 votes, with five comments showing how the picture somehow struck a chord.
'Looks like a Martin Parr photo. Better than just same old climbing pictures. Well captured.'
'Captures a moment in time brilliantly.'
'A magical image - dad playing, sister parenting and the youngest getting on with the serious work of discovering the world.'
'That is a brilliant photo. I'm not even sure why I like it.... I just like it.... it says a lot.'
In the photo, Mark Sharratt - father, photographer and climber - snatches a climb while his two daughters Ophelia (Fe), aged 9 and Florence (Flo), aged 18 months enter the frame and steal the limelight. Younger sister Flo is marching out of shot while Fe attempts to restrain her, stumbling. It's a dynamic family photobomb capturing the trials and tribulations of balancing a day out climbing with kids.
'Sometimes I think it would be nice if things were simple, how they used to be,' Mark told UKC. 'Back then, with time to spare and everything still to be done, it was easy. Now, simply getting everyone out of the house and into the car has become a Sisyphean task. Still, let's go climbing, it's a sunny summer afternoon. It will be great fun. Those famous last words.'
Newstones is just a few miles from Mark's home and is suitably child-friendly. It's also a favourite venue for quality low grade boulder problems. 'In the picture I'm climbing Hammy (V2) which is a perfect objective, low start on big holds to a pull onto the curving arete,' Mark explained. 'A problem that would ideally fit on the finish to an E3 5c, but as is, it's ideal because it's over quickly and I can be back corralling the kids on a moment's notice.'
Fe and Flo will often accompany Mark to the crag. 'Granted, Gogarth is off the cards, but some places fit the bill and the bowling green grass of the Newstones and the short action-packed boulder problems allow me to at least get a fix of climbing movement before attention needs diverting back to the youngsters,' he said.
The scene playing out in the photo must be familiar to all climbing families. 'Fe was taking photos of her feet, the grass, the clouds and anything she thought would look good. Rach, my wife, was returning from beyond distant buttresses carrying Flo who was in full "siren mode", which was a distraction from the calls of the curlew and cuckoo,' Mark explained. Flo wanted to carry on towards Baldstones, a further half mile away across the moorland, but Rach didn't want to - and Rach was in charge.
Mark had climbed Hammy a couple of times and asked Rach to take some photos. Fe was handed Flo's reigns, who is only two months into walking. 'She's still a little wobbly but her confidence is increasing everyday,' Mark said. 'As soon as Flo could, she was off heading back for Baldstones, maximum revs and turbo spinning. Fe was just a passenger at this point.' Rach snapped some photos before regaining control as Mark carried on climbing.
'We didn't stay a lot longer as they were ready for home by that point. In fact, they're always ready for the next thing, it doesn't matter what it is, unless it's bed time - they're never ready for that,' he added.
When he got home, Mark reviewed the day's photos. 'At first, the photographer in me was critical, I noticed technical errors: Flo's foot cropped out and the top of the crag missing, but the more I looked at it, the more it made me smile,' he explained. 'The only part that was intentional was me on the rock, but in hindsight, that would've been a throwaway shot. Instead it's the action happening in front which provides the interest; a photographic metaphor for how my life often feels in a house full of girls.'
Rach had not planned the shot, rather it was a quick point-and-shoot. Mark sent the photo to a friend, who replied with "That's one for the wall." He uploaded the photo to his UKC photo gallery and received a comment off Jimholmes69, saying that it looked like a Martin Parr photograph. 'I didn't know his work so searched online,' Mark admitted. 'It had that action-type feel to it. It was nice to see lots of positive comments and Fe was very happy to see herself in the shot.'
'To me it sums up the girls' characters; Flo all determined and going for it, Fe looking a bit unsure of what is happening,' Mark added. 'Earning Photo of the Week on Father's Day is a nice tribute to all the dads who manage to juggle family life with their climbing.'
Flo's whirlwind personality caused yet more drama and laughs on Father's Day. 'This year it was spent at home with no climbing. The girls got me a mug with their faces on,' Mark told UKC. 'This interested Flo and she ran off with the mug. I heard a crash in the kitchen and knew the outcome. I had the mug for three minutes and never even got to use it.'
Summing up combining fatherhood with his passion, Mark had the following to say: 'Finding time to climb isn't easy. Working shifts and keeping the peace at home takes priority, but I often find an hour or two so I can have a quick climb. As a Dad I am now more aware of the responsibility and have adjusted what I am prepared to consider an acceptable risk, however, I wouldn't change it for the world...if only they'd stay still for ten minutes.'
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