In between moving house and studio (now based in beautiful English countryside one hour outside London) and training for the 113 mile Etape du Tour bike race in the Pyrenees, I have been busily editing work from some of my winter and spring commissions – including Aspen, Colorado, various destinations in Canada, and Val Cenis in France.
Archive for the ‘Destinations’ Category
The Millau Viaduct
Shooting commissions for the ski season having come to a close, I headed out to visit friends Andy and Coralie based in a tiny village in the foothills of the Mediterranean Pyrenees.
This gave me the perfect excuse to stop off at the Foster & Partners viaduct at Millau in France’s Massif Central. At the time of its opening in 2004 it was the highest bridge in the world. Taken in what can only be described as ‘challenging’ weather conditions this is one of several different images taken as I tried to give this widely photographed structure a new twist..
Here’s some recent images from this trip. Big thanks to Nick and Chris at Mountain Tracks for putting everything together and Tom from The Observer for publishing the article and being a tireless ski model. Previously having only been to beautiful Kashmir in the summer, the Himalayas proved to be a truly a unique ski experience and one I’ll always remember.
Spark R&D, a company operating out of Bozeman, Montana, have developed a new binding specifically designed for splitboards. I heard this news last year and had to investigate. For many snowboarders who choose to get away from the resort crowds, the simple option is snowshoes. They work fine, but as a photographer I carry a large, heavy rucksack and adding the weight of a snowboard to the pack while climbing seemed just too much like hard work. Plus, have you ever tried to open rucksacks which have snowshoes tied to the back…. The answer I came to many years ago was a splitboard.
I had a Duotone splitboard with Voile fixings but have recently bought a new Prior Backcountry Split. The Voile system works well but once you’ve added your own bindings the rider’s feet are quite high above the board and this can result in poor transmission of weight to the board’s edges – leaving it feeling slow to respond. It can also result in a degree of sideways rolling of the feet which is undesirable.
However Spark R&D have come up with a clever new integrated binding. Naturally you can’t use your own bindings but the Spark Fuse bindings use the straps and highbacks from regular Bent Metal Fuse bindings. Made of aluminium, initial impressions were good – lightweight but apparently strong and unfussy design. The baseplate and integrated pin puts the riders feet back down to board level and eliminates twisting and unresponsiveness. Also in walk mode, the bindings have a full 90 degree pivot, which means there’s no danger of blowing out your pin if you fall face-first whilst skinning (it happens!). Yep it might sound funny, but if the pin breaks in the backcountry you could be in real trouble.
For their first trip I took the new bindings to Gulmarg in Kashmir where I was photographing a ski trip for The Observer newspaper. Despite difficult conditions and poor snow the bindings worked impeccably and are seemingly bombproof. The integrated pin system means the switch from ride mode to walk mode, and vice versa, is achieved in seconds.
These binding are flying off the shelves and hence in very short supply, but I managed to get some from the very helpful Biwakscharte (www.biwakscharte.de) in Germany, a mountain sports supplier and Spark dealer. So big thanks to Sandy and the team for all their help.
Next stop for the splitboard setup is Aspen, Colorado in early February..
Update! Only a couple of days of easy touring in Aspen but the Spark bindings were again excellent. One thing i noticed was you do have to be quite deliberate with the head of the pin which twists and sits under the toe binding strap. If it is released from under the toe binding – possible in heavy snow – the pin can begin to work loose. Once I noticed it had worked out of one side of the binding and was only held on by the one remaining hole..
I’ve just returned from three weeks travelling and shooting around Scotland, Wales and northern England. Much of this new work will appear as a new project but the details remain under wraps for the moment as I have more locations to shoot.
Taken in the High Tatra mountain range, this series shows the devastation wreaked by a freak storm in November 2004. Winds reaching a speed of 180 km/h (112mph) literally flattened 13000 hectares of forest on the south-eastern slopes of the High Tatras National Park, leaving bare a strip of land between 2.5 km wide and 50 km long. According to a World Wildlife Fund report, ‘the volume of fallen timber is estimated variously at 4 to 5 million cubic meters’.
This haunting and desolate area has changed little since that time. The first two images below show the strip of flattened forest and the second two show a wooden luge track devastated by huge trees which smashed through its banking. The area has suffered from government-sanctioned salvage logging of the fallen trees, despite evidence provided by NGO’s and environmental groups which clearly shows that this kind of logging can cause even greater ecological damage than the storm itself.
Worryingly the ‘Governmental Committee for Restoration and Development of the High Tatras has declared that the restoration of forests should be planned in a way to ‘use this catastrophe for a change in landscape planning and for building new facilities’. And that ‘the government, the committee and its expert groups will not really take in consideration the opinion of nature conservationists and NGO’s’….
In February, accompanied by a writer, I spent several weeks exploring the Cascades Range of mountains in Oregon on the west coast of the US . Actually volcanoes – they’re mostly dormant, though not all (remember Mt St.Helens…) and dominate the skylines with their perfect triangular profiles. The filthy Oregon weather scuppered a lot of the landscape work – for example four days on Mt Bachelor and we never saw the mountain once due the thick cloud, fog and snow. Still I have an excuse to go back…
Since my first visit to Slovakia in March 2008 I’d been looking forward to returning to snowboard and to shoot in the Tatra mountains. That trip the foggy peaks of the Low Tatras, bordering Poland, proved pretty elusive. At the end of a week of almost zero visibility I unexpectedly got a bluebird morning which revealed seemingly endless lines in multiple powder-filled craggy couloirs.
This year I visited both the High and Low Tatras ranges and once again the snow was deep and plentiful – but the visibility was much the same! High winds closed the top lifts and the snow never stopped falling. Despite the unhelpful weather I shot some new panoramas – and a good variety of images that will accompany the published article.
In Nov 2008 I traveled to the UK Lake District to receive an award at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival where one of my images won the Professional Photography category. Three of my images were shortlisted in the top 10 public vote and the winning image was chosen by leading UK landscape photographer Colin Prior. The Kendal Mountain Film Festival is one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals attracting top adventurers, climbers, film-makers and photographers. As part of the prize I will be holding a solo exhibition at the next festival in November 2009.