It’s Monday morning and I find myself back in the office drying out my cameras, flashes and SD cards after one of the hardest assignments I’ve yet shot: an overnight mountain marathon in the Cumbrian Lake District, notorious as being the wettest place in the UK (and that says something) and beyond what I had imagined when I set off on the 600 mile trip North.
Having already reached new-found levels of frustration earlier that evening, 2am on Sunday morning and I find myself trudging up-hill through knee-high snow drift, in driving rain and gale force wind to reach the furthermost checkpoint of the race. On arrival I find the marshals asleep in the small tent and the temperature rapidly dropping, so I quickly set-up tripod and shoot a few long-exposures using myself and head-torch as a subject. The conditions are serious enough to convince me that hanging around for a shot of a competitor is a bad choice. I’ve made plenty of those over the years but it’s the ability to learn from them that has driven me forward in this precarious career as an outdoor & sporting photographer.Taking something you love and turning it into a job is a risky choice to make but it’s one which you’re often powerless to. I feel like I’ve been inadvertently pushed down this road by all of the experiences and adventures I had growing up in the outdoors of Jersey, a small Island just of the French coast. Being surrounded by golden beaches, ocean waves and winding cliff-paths left me with a sincere appreciation of the balance nature provided in my life and I’m still powerless to the lure of the outdoors on a rainy day. It is my biggest influence photographically speaking and shapes everything I do.
I really strive to transport the viewer to the place where all the action is going on and whether it’s rain on the lens, heavy flare that catches your eye or just an epic landscape with a solitary figure, every single hour spent pouring over maps, every mile spent trekking with equipment to find that spot, that view, those conditions is worth it. Authenticity is vital to me and that means only working with models that participate in the activity we shoot, in locations that are genuine and photographing in a style that is true to the market or end-user. Cyclists, runners and adventurers spot a phony a mile-off and that’s why it is important for me to get involved in the things I shoot. I developed an unhealthy habit (according to my wife who is a physio) for running ultra-marathons recently and my biggest frustration is working out how to capture the amazing sights and scenes I see whilst out there!
I’m under no impression that what I do is saving lives or making the world a better place and in terms of my career I’m right at the bottom of the rung – people like Michael Clarke and Corey Rich are the guys I look up to. Nevertheless it takes real passion to drive you forward and be creative, just as I learnt the other night on that snowy hill when I felt like turning back and giving up on the shot.
Every location shoot begins with a map, a check on www.suncalc .net to see what position the light will be coming from and finally as detailed a weather forecast as possible to predict conditions for shooting in. This shot of a male model running along the North coast of the Isle of Wight just after sun-rise is a product of such research but also proof that what might seem like bad weather can provide beautifully stormy conditions. It’s sometimes worth taking a risk! No additional lighting was needed here and using the wide angle lens I simply had to track him running along the shore.
What might look like a monochrome image but is actually colour, this shot arose from shooting into reflected early morning sunshine as the model ran to the surf. Unplanned and not in the brief, sometimes shots just appear and you have to be constantly watching and looking for strong visuals. Modern DSLR’s have fantastic built in light meters that you often have to trust when it’s a grab the camera moment.
The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk cliffs 530ft high and one of the most notorious suicide spots in the UK. We were there for a more uplifting cause, to shoot a fitness feature of a female runner in front of the vast wall of chalk. What I had not expected was the massive amount of light reflected back from the wall, which was just as well as I had left the reflector in the car!
Autumn is probably my favourite time of year to photograph in. Crisp mornings which lead to mist and condensation on the breath combined with the riot of rich colours in the trees make for a fantastic backdrop to shoot against. These two road cyclists ascending Box Hill in Surrey, site of the 2012 London Olympics cycling event, jumped out and were photographed at the first attempt, which was just as well as they were unaware of being photographed and would likely have said no to turning back for a repeat!
Probably one of my favourite shots because of what went into achieving it. Having scaled a fence and descended a precarious rocky slope to get to a position far enough away, the plucky runner was coerced into running up and down this 400ft cliff edge in-front of the famous Needles Lighthouse on the Isle of Wight. Shooting with the 200mm lens, my back to a buffeting side wind and out of earshot I was crossing my fingers that the liability insurance wasn’t going to be needed on this one..
There is neither model or product in this shot from last winter however I often head out with my camera to scout for potential locations and the reflection of this tree in the perfectly still canal really captured me. I love photographing in the snow – the unique light that is reflected up, the stillness and the contrast with how the scene ordinarily looks is simply enchanting.
During my time spent studying photography in South Africa I fell in love with long exposure photography. Many a night was spent wondering around Johannesburg with my tripod, shutter release and camera concealed in a cricket bat bag. There’s something ethereal and ghostly about light trails, the lack of people and you feel like you’re witnessing something most people never see. This shot was taken in Guildford, Surrey with a 2 minute exposure and closed right down – shooting at f16 allows you to capture lights as star -bursts due to the shape of the aperture. I have visions of repeating this and using myself as a model, using a remote trigger to fill me in from a flashgun. It’s pure experimentation and that’s what I feel photography is all about.
Following a night spent sleeping in the van in a Cornwall pub car park, battered by gale force winds and driving rain, I was sincerely hoping that come morning conditions would have improved. Two models were convinced the 5am wake up call was going to be a waste of time but I knew that when weather fronts clear the ensuing conditions are often beautiful skies. This was the case having trekked to a remote headland to set-up camp, a fire and await sunrise. The clouds provided the mood and the client was over the moon with the result of our perseverance!
The fifth longest river in the UK, stretching 134 miles from source to sea between England and Wales, the River Wye is a beautiful location. Shooting a product range for a UK outdoor brand meant a couple of hours paddling up river at midday. Ordinarily a time of day you might avoid shooting at due to the heavy contrast and drained colour, the heavy foliage and pools of light meant this worked in our favour. With my kit heavily sealed in waterproof bags just in case we tipped I was free to paddle up stream and shoot back with the 80-200mm, shouting directions to the models.
Combining two of my passions, light aircraft flying and aerial photography, I shot this whilst hanging out of the window of a Cessna150 200ft above the beautiful Oyster beds of Barfleur in Normandy, France. The shapes, colours and lines of the natural landscape take on a completely different and exhilarating view when seen from high above as anyone who’s tried taking a photo from an aircraft window will know. Being able to tell the pilot to circle a feature below whilst you madly scramble to keep your shutter speed above 1/250 and the lens away from the airframe (vibrations cause blur) is a real thrill!
I spend a lot of my time working with adventurers and explorers who undertake mad cap and brave challenges. I photographed Andy on -board his single- man vessel in training for a solo trans -Atlantic rowing attempt. Again the combination of early morning and still conditions lent real atmosphere to the shots – this one taken after hopping off the row-boat onto a moored yacht in the channel to get a different angle. He went on to set a new record for the fastest solo crossing.
On a recent commission to document an all-night mountain marathon in the Lake District (affectionately known as the wettest place in the UK – and that is saying something!) I made a bad decision in pursuit of “The” photo to impress the photo – editor and secure a double page spread. Setting off at 1am toward the highest and most remote checkpoint soon turned into a 2.5hr round trip through blizzards, gale force winds and freezing temperatures in knee high snow. Realizing conditions were too dangerous to spend longer than 5 minutes there I only had time to set-up tripod and stage this shot of a competitors head- torch passing by the beacon checkpoint.
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