It was a horrible drive up the A14/M6 in fog that didn’t lift all day, but once I got to the NEC, I knew it was worth the effort. Crufts didn’t let me down. It was fascinating. I wandered around, people watching and dog watching with my camera pretty much glued to my eye.

It was Toy and Utility Day and in every aisle, driven, determined, steely eyed , set jawed women in clothes you probably only see at dog shows and weddings grimly brushed, blow dried and primped small, placidly accepting dogs of the small, fluffy or hairy kind. Driven, determined, steely eyed, set jawed gay and straight, but I would tentatively say mostly gay men did likewise. Husbands, partners and various family members hovered, or sat, idling on their mobiles.

Visitors and exhibitors milled around, exchanging Dog Talk and show gossip, every now and then pausing to do the arms length squint that camera and phone makers force us to do since viewfinders fell out of favour. (My camera has a viewfinder thank God).

In their respective aisle Bulldogs lay slumped in their cages, half asleep, pendulous jowls spreading like melting candle wax as the poor overbred creatures snorted and snored, oblivious to the permanently tragic gaze of pop-eyed Pugs and forlorn French Bulldogs. In other aisles Pomeranians yapped, Yorkies yelped, Italian Greyhounds quivered  in anorexic paroxisms while dandylion headed Bischon Frises sat looking slightly self conscious as one of the living, breathing exercises in surreal topiary that constitutes a Standard Poodle, perched on its special grooming table nearby, got it’s quiff sorted. It’s a dog’s life.

Partly owing to the dullest of dull foggy days outside, not much daylight permeated the vast hanger like halls. the artificial lights were OK but for photographic purposes it was tricky. I really didn’t want to use flash as I felt it would be intrusive and off putting for the dog groomers, not to mention the dogs. So I had to up the ISO on my X100 to uncomfortable levels (the higher you go the lower the light you can operate in but the more noisy/grainy the result) hence the only average technical quality of these shots.

Still, technical quality aside, I think you get an idea of what it’s like wandering the halls at the NEC when Crufts is on. I am going for a sort of cumulative documentary effect, but from the veiwpoint of an amused/bemused outside observer, enjoying the absurdity of the event without judging it too hard.

p.s. – I dunno if it was by choice because of the lurid green flooring, but I have never seen so many people wearing orange. Unless I just gravitated towards them when picking photographic subjects. . .

All shots taken with an Fuji X100 with a Nikon WC-E68 wide angle adaptor at ISO 6400 trying to keep at f5.6 or above and the shutter speed above 1/30. So motion blur and underexposure was a constant worry. Oh well, next time it might be sunny outside. . .


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