12 in 12

Ahead of my now-annual review of the year, I asked myself why I’m writing it. Is it pure self-indulgence??? Well, partly yes, but it also helps prepare me for the coming year. Selling photographs is a constant battle, with more photographers creating more images than ever before. Just last week a well-known, global outdoor company told me they couldn’t pay more than £40 to use an image on their website because they get most of their photos from amateurs for free!

I don’t need that kind of negative thought lingering over the festive period, so I’m reflecting on how lucky I’ve been in the last 12 months, to do what I love.

It’s difficult to get any business done over Christmas, so this acts as something much more important – a reminder of the passion that started all this. I hope you can see some of it in this blog; 12 months in 12 images.

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This might be a strange choice for January, given that I had a press pass to shoot the Freeride World Tour, the first of several shoots for Whitedot Skis, and the first of my collaborations with Geoff Harper and his fatbike and with Charley and Sophie Radcliffe, Sidetracked and Salomon. An incredible start to the year, and exactly why I’d decided to spend the winter in Chamonix, but this shot sums up how I was feeling as 2015 ticked over – like I was in a world of epic opportunity.

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February’s shot is more predictable, and if you follow my blog or social media you’ll definitely have seen this before. I means a lot to me personally as it reminds me of a superb day more or less managing to keep up with pro skiers on the Vallee Blanche – Ben Briggs, Tom Coney and John Luckhurst repping Whitedot. But it was also a successful image with several commercial and editorial outlets including a double-page spread in BMC’s Summit magazine.

I’d worked with the British Ski Academy and Off Piste Performance in February, as well as heli-skiing for the first time and meeting and interviewing one of my heroes, Xavier de le Rue. But still this shot of Ben stands out.

March was equally busy, but one shoot stands out again; ski touring with Charley and Sophie Radcliffe.

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We’d worked together on a few collaborations with Sidetracked and Salomon, and it was great to get to know these guys as runners and climbers. But it was ski touring that showcased their attitude to life – they’d never done it before, but still gave it their all!

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Another thing you’re probably sick of hearing about; Geoff Harper’s attempt to fatbike the Tour du Mont Blanc. You can read the story here and here, but suffice to say this shot, from April, is from our final day working together and was the culmination of a really unique project that gained lots of attention for Geoff and his sponsors, and gave the two of us a great friendship. It also secured my second double-page spread in MBR magazine!

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By May I’d relocated to the Peak District, but didn’t get much chance to settle in before heading off to Alaska for the start of a great working relationship with Double A Media (Active Traveller, and Snow magazines). I’m not sure I’ll ever try stand-up paddle boarding again – how could it compare to my first time, floating with icebergs? – but I’ll never forget this unique experience, and the dozens of others from ‘The Last Frontier’. This trip also provided the basis for the first of many articles for Gore Tex ‘Experience More’ which you can read here.

Between Alaska and a June trip to Austria I managed to squeeze in a quick return to the Lake District to shoot Kona’s Dan Farley in a secret Cumbrian spot. He spent so long in the air that the slow-shutter pan-shot was a breeze!

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In July Active Traveller sent me packing again for a mountain biking trip to Utah. Park City’s trail centres were the best I’ve ever ridden, but the southern landscape is what makes Utah. I had a hard time selecting just one, and although it’s not an action shot, it does represent the inordinate amount of time I spent staring into the vastness of the desert…

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By August I’d managed to devote some time to my architectural passion, and make a start as a Peak District hotel photographer at the impossibly perfect Old Shoulder of Mutton in Winster. It’s obvious why they’re in the Michelin Guide!

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And after a brief mountain hit in Andorra (another piece coming soon to Active Traveller) I got more of the same in September. Being asked to photograph Morland House in the Eden Valley was a treat; it’s dripping in grandeur and history, and somehow manages to stay homely. Except when you’re alone in the dark and everything creaks….

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The rest of the year was dominated by a large project for the Peak District National Park Authority, and was a really interesting challenge. I’d pitched an idea of how to promote the Pedal Peak initiative through imagery, and it stretched my ideas of cycling photography in lots of creative ways. The October shot below, is of a mountain bike route and was well within my comfort zone:

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…But Pedal Peak is aimed at promoting cycling for all; calling myself an adventure photographer wasn’t going to cut it, and I found I had to look at biking without the mountain, in a different way. Even something as sedate as cycling to afternoon tea had to be covered, this time in Buxton in November:

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By December I was concerned about a lack of colour and life in the landscape, but a gentle ride along the canal at Cheddleton revealed soft autumnal tones were still lingering and was a relaxing way to begin the wind-down before Christmas!

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So many people have contributed to an incredible year – some mentioned above – but I’d particularly like to thank all my clients. Those who still place a value on photography and writing and consequently inspire professionalism and creativity; I’ve got plenty of those ready for 2016!

 

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Cumbria Hotel Photography

It’s tricky to know how to market myself with specialisms as diverse as adventure photography and hotel photography.  They are two disciplines with very different techniques, audiences, and clients.  But there is a centre-point that connects the two and makes my choice of subjects seem more logical, and that is travel photography.

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My life of adventure started by working in the travel industry, initially in ski chalets, so the focus was perfectly logical to me.  The overarching principle, from a commercial point of view is to evoke desire in the viewer, to make them place themselves in a photo whether it’s clinging to the side of a mountain or lazing in a four-poster bed.

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You might think I enjoy adventure photography much more than hotel photography – on the face of it, it’s more exciting and more universally appealing to a viewer.  But from a photographers’ point of view the two things complement each other well.  I love to find form and shape in nature, but this is nicely balanced for me in the geometry of architecture.  Photographing a hotel room presents its own challenges of perspective, and composition, and balancing soft lines with hard.

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In particular Lake District hotel photography offers a beautiful combination of the two disciplines; for commercial purposes it is essential to remember why people want to holiday in this area, and shooting hotel exteriors makes this abundantly clear.  This is why I’m so excited to be offering elevated photography in the Lake District.

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Perspective is so important in imagery, and to be able to offer something unusual is a bonus.  To be able to offer an aerial perspective, to all at once take in the whole of a building in the context of its grounds, and the full sweep of its surroundings, is priceless.

I’ve only just started my adventures with elevated photography, but I can’t wait to get stuck in. Onwards and upwards!

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Because They’re There?

My first blog entry.  Well I’ve been blogging for other people for so long, I thought it was about time I did so for myself; but I’m going to start with a piece I wrote for Jottnar as it seems an appropriate place to begin.

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Why climb mountains?  That’s a tough one.  I was asked why I photograph mountains, and maybe the same answer applies to both questions.  To conquer giants or to capture giants?

Artistically and elementally, there are no better colours and shapes than those found on a jagged summit ridge, a sandstone tower or a meadow of alpine wildflowers.  No better interplay of light and shadow than when the peaks cast their forms far down into the valleys or when rock catches fire at sunset.  No better sense of bewildering scale than the tiny piton holding lives above the chasm.

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But photography is best when it captures and evokes emotion.  From tranquil solitude to tempests and terror, the mountains provide a varied diet of soul food for a healthy mind.  Some climb to test their limits, to understand their own reactions to fear, isolation, beauty, adrenaline, autonomy and vulnerability.  After years of discovering my own limitations I really began to notice adventure photography and it was this self-awareness that heightened my reactions – the realisation that the limits of others are way beyond my own.  This makes an image inspirational.

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This is only part of the story.  I love mountains.  If you’re reading this I imagine you do too.  Climbing – in rock boots or hiking boots, crampons or skis – can be a way of involving yourself with beauty and nature and getting intimate with the landscape.  Photography can be the same, but maybe it’s also an attempt to hang on to that intimacy for a later date.  For me it’s an attempt to share that intimacy.

Whether I’m capturing adrenaline, wonder or pure beauty, for commercial reasons or not, I think my unconscious aim is always to evoke desire: Desire to be there, to have what it takes to get there, or even to own the gear to enable you to get there.  I guess this is why you should always photograph things you love.

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