Personal Milestones

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As a child I was lucky enough to spend a lot of my holiday time up in the Lake District, a beautiful part of the countryside just two hours north of the town that I grew up in. My sisters and I would be told tales of a mountain called Helvellyn just up in the valley from where we stayed. Too young and inexperienced to climb the peak, I never actually made it up there during those years and future visits to the area would also mark another trip where i didn’t quite make it. This made the mountain seem even more majestic to me as it was fast becoming the one that got away.

All this was put to rest yesterday though, as a midweek family catch us brought us back up to this wonderful area for the night. Having logged an all day walk with my Mother and Sister, I set my alarm clock for 6am the following morning, woke up, checked the weather and duly set off with the aim of running up to the summit. My years of not climbing this peak became apparent as i found myself first on an adjacent peak having taken the wrong path 40 minutes earlier. A little bit of extra pace brought me to the summit where around 7am I captured this image (Sony RX100). It’s funny how a mountain that once seemed impregnable could actually be summited in a pre-breakfast run.

As well as being a personal milestone, I also sensed the obvious changing of seasons. Having ran the previous week up in the Alps, it’s only too apparent how quickly the snow is melting with the signs of Spring everywhere. Last year took an awful long time for the mountain trails to open (into July for some of them), whereas it feels like we’re already on the cusp of a summer season.

If that’s the case then i’m happy with that. Bring it on I say.

Freeride World Tour Portraits

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I feel lucky to have an association with the Freeride World Tour. This season has been my third year working alongside the team, with a number of great relationships being formed along the way. Over the past year my workload has switched over to the junior Freeride Tour which runs parallel to the main event. Don’t be fooled by the name though. Despite them being classed as juniors, some of the skiing i’ve witnessed by them simply blows my mind.

Verbier is the final showdown on the tour and like almost every event this season it was disrupted due to the weather. The juniors event went off without a hitch just over a week ago, freeing up my schedule for the main event that was postponed until this Saturday. I’d received an interesting commission from ESPN to shoot finish line portraits, keeping my back firmly turned to the action that was unrolling. With some of the riders crashing out and others elated with their results, there was a mixed bag of emotions shown in the above images.

This marks the start of the end in terms of the 2013/2014 winter. Maybe it will be remembered as the winter of discontent by many. Sure it was a challenging one but productive nonetheless. With the changing of the clocks and the lengthening days i really can’t wait now for summer.

 

Paris – Nice Kicks Off Cycle Season

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I’ve spent hours this winter mulling over the 2014 cycling calendar, with the Paris – Nice proving to be a perfect starting point for a body of personal work that I have planned out around this years road cycling circuit. I have a pretty good idea of action related images that I’d like to photograph during this season, but the thing that excites me most is the lifestyle that you can capture along the way.

Unlike the sport, you have little control over what lifestyle is presented to you, with each race or set of fans being unique to that occasion. Once you’ve witnessed the crazy carnival type atmosphere of the Tour de France, the Paris – Nice seems an almost quaint affair. The image above depicts a group of locals ascending Mont Brouilly towards the end of the fourth stage of the tour. Nestled in the vineyards of the Beaujolais region of France, this hilly top just 14km from the finish proved steep enough to really string apart the peloton.

This type of cycling photography really is a lesson in preparation. With a round trip in the car of 7 hours it’s important to know exactly where you’re heading on the stage as the athletes only travel past you once (more often than not, all at once too). 7 hours in the car for two action images makes you start to realise how dedicated you must be to grow an action portfolio in this sport. I’m looking forward to mine growing though, along with capturing great lifestyle shots like the one above, en route.

Behind The Shot: The Runner

Everyone loves to remind me that England is known for its inclement weather. Any conversation that fringes on my heritage (of which there’s many), usually includes a phrase along the lines of, “so you’re used to terrible weather being English”. I can’t help but feel that Swiss residents get a little sidetracked by the ski conditions up in the mountains during winter, completely ignoring the fact that the weather down in the towns is generally awful. There have been many days this winter where i’ve not been able to leave the house for rain or fog or any other concoction of crappy weather. This is until now.

With the month of March on the horizon a patch of fine weather has graced the valleys, allowing my focus to turn towards the running season. The testing winter weather acts as a thorn in my side for my running motivation. Not able to access the hills and no motivation to run around the towns leads to an almost hibernative state, with a sole focus on skiing. The starting signs of Spring give me that zest i need to become excited for the running season with the realisation that its now time to train.

This simple photo is symbolic to me as it captures my first steps of the year, high up above the valley floor allowing time to contemplate the running that lays ahead. I like to travel light whilst running, but also capture a quick shot should the environment allow. The camera i often run with is the Sony RX100. Despite its small profile it has the potential to produce images with beautiful quality making it a camera that is always by my side. As i was flying solo this weekend this is actually a self portrait. I’ve experimented quite a bit running with just the camera but find the options for taking images limited due to issues in finding a place that provides a clear field of view with camera stabilisation. All of these worries dissipate with the use of a Manfrotto Super Clamp and 11 inch Magic Arm. The clamp tightens onto any surface, holding an extendable arm in place. This arm then attaches to the tripod mount of the camera allowing you to place it where you please. In this particular shot the clamp is attached to some overhanging rock with the camera on self timer rapid shot. The results can be hit and miss, but with a little patience there’s usually a shot to behold.

Camera Setup: Sony RX100, ISO400, f5.6, 1/2000s. Manfrotto Super Clamp, 11 inch Magic Arm

Cool Stuff: Alex Honnold free-solos El Sendero

I came across this gem whilst watching a backlog of videos that had piled up during my visit to the States. Free-soloing, the art of rock climbing minus any safety equipment, has held my attention of recent with an uncomfortable feeling developing as i sit through each video. The raw nature of this activity is something that many of us will never experience. To be honest, it’s probably a rush that most of us will be content in not feeling, happy in the knowledge that some things are just too extreme to witness first hand.

Alex Honnold is a different breed though. This recent video, expertly produced by the Camp4 Collective for The North Face, showcases Alex’s talent in a 6 minute short. I’ve tried to fathom what capturing this feat must have been like for the cinematographers. Of course the route would have been precisely inspected by the team and Alex’s ability and confidence would have been at an all time high, but if one little thing would have gone wrong then the results would have been catastrophic.

I’ve certainly photographed athletes in dangerous circumstances, but this simply blows my mind. Great work on display here, well worth 6 minutes of your time.

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