Having missed last year’s event, as I was away at the time, I was glad to be able to cover it once again and this year the weather was also much better than what I remember it being last year. I can’t quite remember where I was last year, but I suspect that it was on another High Country Cruise. I was also under the impression, earlier in the year, that the event had been cancelled for some reason, but that rumour turned out to be untrue. I’m not sure where that rumour came from, but when I did some checking it was clearly just a rumour. And just so that I didn’t forget, I made sure that it was entered in my calendar as a reminder. It’s not the first time that I’ve forgotten something, only to remember at the last moment, or not.
So I dropped in on Saturday morning to see how things were going and to take a bit of test video, as I wanted to cover it all using my new video gear. It was pretty quiet this morning, but Jean (Moir) advised that Sunday would be busy with the finals and that there was going to be a bus load of tourists coming to view the event. So this would be interesting, as I don’t know if there’s ever been any interest from a major tourist group when it comes to these local events (more on that later). But it’s nice to know that it has generated some interest and hopefully the visitors would enjoy their time watching the event. As an aside, I was talking to one participant and we discussed the differences in country and city experiences and expectations. The experiences and expectations are always different and, as pointed out, city folk often have no choice but to go through their daily grind year after year because they work to live. So it’s often impossible for them to get out of that grind and experience the another side of life in Australia. I’m somewhat in the middle here, as I had experienced that daily grind most of my life, but interspersed that with frequent visits to the country (Gippsland in particular) with our camping trips and Cruises.
The Saturday was a clear and sunny day and that was followed up on Sunday with another brilliant day with clear skies. At least it was brilliant for the competitors and spectators, but for a photographer or videographer, this sort of weather is the worst possible because of the harsh light, shadow and contrast that confronts them at every angle, especially at midday when lighting is at its worst. Overcast days, or at least partially cloudy are the ideal. But there was little that I could do other than make the best of these conditions and so I picked a shady spot under overhanging trees. There was no point in standing under the full sun for five hours, baking not just myself, but all of my gear. Where I settled in gave me a reasonably good outlook on the activities, though I couldn’t capture any of the challenges further away as my lens just couldn’t reach the distance. My usual long telephoto zoom isn’t playing nicely with my video camera, so I decided to leave it at home. I’m hoping, but not holding my breath, that a firmware update might improve things.
As the day’s events progressed and slowly led up to the main competition, it became evident that the sheep selected for the trials were the most cantankerous lot you could find. Now under the Victorian Working Sheep Dog Association (VWSDA) rules these sheep are not supposed to be familiar with these activities, else they may just go about things through habit. This lot certainly didn’t appear to be familiar with these activities, or being bossed around, and it showed. They just stood their ground at every opportunity and refused to take much notice of the dogs attempting to herd them about the field. They were often challenging the dogs and stomping their feet to indicate their displeasure at being annoyed by excited, small, dogs. That led to much frustration by the owners and resulted in several timeouts or out of bounds penalties as the sheep refused to cooperate. I was beginning to wonder whether PETA had something to do with this flock of unruly sheep,
As lunchtime arrived, the busload of tourists also arrived and their origins finally came to light. Apparently they were former agricultural exchange students on a reunion tour in Australia and came from all around the world. Their visit to the Berryden Sheepdog Trials was part of their tour and I gather it was an Australia wide tour and not just Victoria. Anyway, as the finals of the trials arrived, the competition was full on and the top dogs were taking no crap from the sheep, and that was obvious as the events were much more dog and owner sided than sheep sided. The final competitors didn’t have it easy, but there was no more of this confrontation or running off into the wilderness. Unfortunately I had to depart before the winners were announced, but I understand congratulations are due to Jean Moir for first place and Luke Harris for second place.