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2010 retrospective: my 10 favourite photos from the past year

With only a couple of days to go, it is time to reflect on a very busy year. 2010 for me has meant moving to a new country – the UK – and back, more amazing trips to places I had never been to before, and a lot of climbing of all sorts, from my first sport F7a+ to hard trad on grit, multi-pitch days, an introduction to Scottish winter, a couple of big mountains, including my second 6000er and even a few alpine routes stolen on Chamonix weekends. This year has also been one where several things became clear: I want to pursue photography as a career, and I want to specialize in climbing imagery and mountain landscapes. Writing my first book (and, later, my first ebook) has been a great experience and made me realize how much I love teaching – something I will probably also pursue in the future.

All in all, it’s been busy, and with a few exceptions, it’s been great. I enjoyed 2010 more than I did 2009, and the latter included quite a lot of goodies already. Let’s hope that 2011 will be even better.

Here then are my 10 favourite photos from the past year, in chronological order. Unsurprisingly, they are all featuring either mountains or climbing, often both. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as me!

 

Skiers and mountaineers waiting for the first cablecar up Aiguille du Midi (shown in the background), Chamonix, France.

Skiers and mountaineers waiting for the first cablecar up Aiguille du Midi (shown in the background), Chamonix, France.

I am usually fully laden with bags, skis and axes poking everywhere when I take the Midi cablecar, but by some streak of luck, I happened to have free hands this particular morning and was able to snap this quickly, as I was attracted by the heavy mist hiding the mountain and the graphic shapes of the climbers. It turned out to be one of my very favourite images this year, because of its strong story and simple but powerful composition.

 

Jon Fullwood bouldering in Curbar Edge, Peak District.

Jon Fullwood bouldering in Curbar Edge, Peak District.

My very first contact with the famous gritstone of the English Peak District took place on the last day of the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival. I was accompanied by local climber and photographer Adam Long whom I had met the previous evening but promptly discovered we didn’t quite climb at the same standards. After a while, I stopped trying to break my neck on bold free solos and went back to picture taking instead while Adam and two of his friends, Jon and Simon, worked one of their bouldering projects. I really like this frame because of Jon’s expression, which shows what it really takes to climb at this level.

 

Will Foreman belayed by Rune Bennike on The Rasp (E2 5c), a long and pumpy gritstone route in Higgar Tor, Peak District, England.

Will Foreman belayed by Rune Bennike on The Rasp (E2 5c), a long and pumpy gritstone route in Higgar Tor, Peak District, England.

A few months later, two friends from Denmark, Rune and Will, came to visit me for a weekend of trad climbing. I took them to the Peak District and we first headed to Higgar Tor as there was a route I had wanted to climb for a while, The File. Having dispatched it, Will started working on the very steep The Rasp and I rigged a fixed line to photograph him. What made me select this frame out of the dozens I shot of him was the obvious twist in his body, suggesting how overhanging the route really is.

 

An unidentified Japanese climber belays his partner above the crux of the Cosmiques ridge in degrading weather, Chamonix, France

An unidentified Japanese climber belays his partner above the crux of the Cosmiques ridge in degrading weather, Chamonix, France

On my second trip to Chamonix that year, I teamed up with James Monypenny, a kickass British climber. We warmed up on the five pitches Rebuffat route on the Cosmiques spur of Aiguille du Midi but, unfortunately, as we finished the Arete des Cosmiques to return to the cablecar station, the weather started worsening considerably, and conditions were wintery the next day, putting an end to any climbing dreams. I shot this image just as we finished the climb, with a Japanese team behind us trying to get the last cablecar. What attracted me right away was the big gendarme disappearing in the mist, which combined very suggestively with the kneeling belay by the climber. They got to the cablecar in time, by the way.

 

Nic Mullin heads down from the Aiguille du Plan. From left to right, the Grand Capucin, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit and Aiguille du Midi. Our immediate objective, the Rognon du Plan, is hidden in the mist.

Nic Mullin heads down from the Aiguille du Plan. From left to right, the Grand Capucin, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit and Aiguille du Midi. Our immediate objective, the Rognon du Plan, is hidden in the mist.

For my third and last trip to Chamonix, we attempted the ambitious full traverse of the Aiguilles de Chamonix. With good conditions and a great weather forecast, things should have gone well, but a mixture of altitude sickness, general slowness and a sprinkle of mistakes made us retreat by the time we reached Aiguille du Plan. Just after descending the rock pitches from the Plan, we were treated to this amazing Chamonix panorama. To me, this is what Chamonix is all about.

 

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Though due to living in Denmark, this is where I spend most of my climbing time, I am no big fan of indoor climbing, and especially not of indoor bouldering competition (three things I don’t like!). But there was something special about this image which I took at the Tour de Bloc comp, I like how suggestive and gritty it is, without actually showing much. I also believe it’s a highly original rock climbing image, something which I strive for.

 

The sacred mountain Khumbu Yul Lha at sunset, Nepal.

The sacred mountain Khumbu Yul Lha at sunset, Nepal.

The first time on the Nepal trip where I really knew I had captured something special. The way that the clouds, still lit by the setting sun, hovered above the mountain already in the shade reminded me instantly of a similar image by one of my heroes, Galen Rowell (though I think his was taken in the High Sierra). Perhaps my favourite landscape I shot this year.

 

A lone figure below the imposing north face of Ama Dablam in the mist. Pokalde BC, Khumbu, Nepal.

A lone figure below the imposing north face of Ama Dablam in the mist. Pokalde BC, Khumbu, Nepal.

Once again, it is the suggestive power of this image that really stirs something whenever I look at it. The way that the tiny figure, almost out of the frame, interacts with the giant mountain almost hidden in the fog is simply beautiful, in my opinion. I also like that it’s not so much “in your face” like this type of image sometimes can be, but rather very gentle and peaceful.

 

Star trails and moonlight on the north face of Ama Dablam, Khumbu, Nepal.

Star trails and moonlight on the north face of Ama Dablam, Khumbu, Nepal.

It took me a lot of effort to get this image, and I was hoping to get longer startrails, but I still love the final result. The deep blue colours and the lovely contrast from the moonlight are what make this image really work.

 

Clouds and snow plume on the summit of Lhotse.

Clouds and snow plume on the summit of Lhotse.

I was really exhausted when I shot this, halfway up Gokyo Ri and having given up reaching its top to witness sunset on Everest, but the real show was on nearby Lhotse. It took me a few tries to find the right composition and the right processing, but I love how the final image combines a feeling of power and hostility with one of pure beauty.

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The Khumbu Diaries, now in motion

Prayer flags on the first and highest suspension bridge above the Dudh Kosi.

For the first time, I did not limit myself to still photography to document one of my trips and, following a request from Jagged Globe (and also because it’s fun), I also shot video footage during the Khumbu trip last month. After spending the last couple of weeks sorting and editing the many hours of footage, I finally have a polished, 8 minutes film ready.

It has its own page on the site, Khumbu Diaries short film but you will have to watch it on vimeo if you want the HD version (which I recommend in fullscreen).

Feedback, good or bad, is always very welcome!

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