Gracias Cardiff - At the UEFA Champions League Final

All images shot with the X-Pro2 and 18mm f/2 lens.

These are strange times, but was there anything ever as uniting as football? On Saturday the biggest sporting event in Cardiff's history swept the city in jubilant fashion as over 170,000 football fans descended upon the city to watch Real Madrid and Juventas square off in the UEFA Cup Final. 

They made a point of the security arrangements in the run-up. After the recent tragic terrorist attacks in Manchester, London and abroad there were armed police on the streets and a ring of steel checkpoint barricades around the compact city centre. And yet, for all that, the atmosphere was beautiful. Wide-eyed and grinning Spanish football fans wandered the street waving flags, an intermingling of the red and yellow of the home flag and the red, white and green of the Welsh Dragon. Not one glance over one's shoulder. The armed police were barely glanced at, whilst enthusiastic hugs and selfies were shared between the visiting Spaniards and the local constabulary. It's easy to get swept up in the atmosphere of fear in the news, the rolling banners of atrocity dominating 24 hour news. And yet, whilst a terrorist may sow fear and hurt and grief through the ranks of an unlucky few ... millions, millions of us still count the days in peace, sharing in simple pleasures. It's the old wartime message Keep Calm & Carry On made cliche through a million mugs and posters, but if such a determination served the populace through a time of random robot buzz-bombs falling from the heavens, why not take it to heart in the here and now? The Ariana Grade One Love concert said as much.  If this sounds like an odd ramble, it's probably because it's been an odd week to live and work in Cardiff City Centre, with the massive security presence.   

And so myself and my friend Jen hit the city, cameras in hand. She wore an old Canon AE film SLR with a nifty-fifty, I took out my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and the 18mm f/2 - perfect for up close in the jostling crowds. Trying to take advantage of the evening light, we got there after most of the fans had filed into the stadium but there were still many a soul about flitting between the pubs and bars. 

What began as a simple exercise in street-photography inevitably turned into an all night party, culminating in Womanby Street, a beautiful little lane that's the spiritual heart of Cardiff's alternative music night-life. Around midnight the tragic news from London came in a pause of glanced grimaces, smart-phones in hand, up and down the street. Then the moment passed with a decision. F**k terrorism, hit the dance floor - there's time to dwell upon the sorrow of it all later. The party rolled on. It wasn't insensitivity, it was in keeping with the entire day... a perhaps resiliant determination to have fun, mingled with that curious human ability to immediately forget, to let go. 

Shot straight-out-of-camera in Classic Chrome 'Eggleston' - film curve tweaks in Lightroom.

It wasn't my best photography that day admittedly (I was rather sloppy with the manual zone-focusing) but it was some of the most fun. And once again The Moon Club didn't disappoint with its music or beer. The night was balmy, punctuated only by a sudden sodden downpour of good old Welsh showers before becoming positively Mediterranean again. Myself and Jen had a disposable Ilford HP5 camera each too, and popped flashes on the dance-floor whilst bopping to Bowie, Daft Punk and Manu Chao. (Looking forward to seeing how those came out.) It wasn't until the small hour of five o'clock that I reached home, dawn beginning to break and the birds twittering in the way that immediately tells you that yes, you really should have been in bed hours ago and yes, there's going to be a price to be paid for your excess throughout the tomorrow. 

Shot straight-out-of-camera in Acros 'Moriyama' - film curve tweaks in Lightroom.

There are those who'd want us to live in fear, who seek to profit by division and hate. Despite the heavy security presence in Cardiff on that day, I saw something else. The unmixed joy of many thousands of football fans in a foreign city, wandering beer in hand, flags flying, waiting for the match to kick off on a balmy evening in late Spring, mixing with the locals, dancing on in the alleyways, beer in hand, bellowing incoherently until the sun comes up. That atmosphere of jubilation, despite everything it was thrilling. This is how we should live. Every football chant, every mosh-pit an f-you to fear. 

Chin up.