Now that 2013 has officially begun, it’s time for a little reflection of the past year, a very eventful one for me. From getting frostbite to discovering Patagonia, bagging beautiful summits, learning to fly, working for big clients and meeting a wonderful young lady.
I also feel that I produced some of my best work yet, and it has been difficult to choose just ten images from the year. It should probably also be noted I excluded some of the images shot on assignment and still embargoed by the clients, even though a couple would probably have made the cut! You can also check out my selection for 2011 and 2010.
Mark Lattanzi (Team Dancing Pandas, CA-US-NZ) learns that the last paddling stage of the 2012 Patagonian Expedition Race has been cancelled, and has thus just completed the 8 days race with only 12 minutes to spare.
I don’t shoot portraits very often, but this one is pretty special to me. I trekked close to 100km with Mark and the rest of his team, the Dancing Pandas, at the beginning of the 2012 race, and they were the loveliest, most fun people you could possibly spend time in the wilderness with. After leaving them at a checkpoint and taking a (motorised) shortcut to the end, I watched team after team roll in, but still no Dancing Pandas until literally the last moment: out of an 8 days race, they only had 14 minutes to spare when they reached the checkpoint. Mark’s face as he learned he wouldn’t have to kayak another 30km in bad weather and that the race was over shows what it really takes to finish such an extreme race.
Julien Millot does a base jump backflip while James Clulow highlines in the Dalles Grises sector of France’s Verdon Gorges.
I came to Verdon to shoot Mich Kemeter again, but serendipity showed up and I met with the Flight of the Frenchies crew, busy highlining and BASE jumping. I shot this from a fixed line near the classic BASE exit, and love how the evening light and both actions combined perfectly for this particular frame.
Mich Kemeter freesolos “Durandal” (F6c) in Gorges du Verdon, France.
A few days later, Mich’s last in Verdon, the windy weather made longlining and hard climbing too difficult, so the alternatives were a quick highline freesolo onsight and then this free solo of the last pitch of Durandal, a classic Verdon line. I shot this while hanging from a 50m highline they had setup the previous day, which allowed me to get a great perspective away from the wall.
Hulya Vassail bootpacks on the upper part of the north ridge of Dôme du Goûter at sunrise, with Aiguille du Midi and the lights from the Chamonix valley below her.
Even though we didn’t reach the summit of Mont Blanc as planned, altitude having taken its toll, it was an amazing climb up and ski down. Capturing this was a bit of a gamble, since I could barely see without a headlamp myself. Yet the D700 performed amazingly and the combination of rising sun, valley lights far below and jagged peaks all around made for a great atmosphere.
Hulya Vassail on the hardly protectable final slabs of Pointe Ségogne, the last of the rock pinnacles on the Grands Montets ridge, Aiguille Verte.
Another shot of Hulya on the highlight of our alpine season, the very complete Grands Montets ridge. Reaching this point took us most of the day, and a combination of scrambling, rock and ice climbing. The start of the final abseils to the bivy site was only a few meters higher, but this was the crux of the whole climb and very unnerving to lead, as it was impossible to protect – a fall would have been very long indeed! Yet when I reached the anchor, the rock, clouds and light aligned perfectly for a great shot. Soon to be featured on the cover of Patagonia’s catalog, too!
A paraglider above the small city of Pinzolo, Trentino.
Paragliding is my new hobby (some would say drug) and I was delighted to go shoot a short film about it for the Trentino tourist office, in the Dolomites. In between video footage, I managed to get some stills like this one. Air to air photography is pretty complicated, so when lucky enough to have great light, a scenic Italian village background and amazing pilots performing acrobatics, it’s high time to press the shutter!
Francis Kelsey on a very wintery SE ridge of Tour Ronde, Chamonix.
This is the only image shot on assignment for a client shown here, since Vaude was kind enough to let me show them around right away. Francis is a very good friend, as well as a mountain guide, so it was a pleasure to have him model the latest alpine clothes from the German brand. The normally mellow ridge was deeply covered in snow after a big storm blew over Chamonix, and we were very lucky with the light indeed!
A Brocken spectre behind Aiguille de Blaitière, Chamonix.
Unusually, this wasn’t shot on a climb but from the parking lot of my new flat in Les Praz! In all the years I’ve been visiting (and later living in) Chamonix, I had never seen this phenomenon, called a Brocken spectre. It lasted only a few minutes, but long enough for me to manage to run home and grab the camera. Sometimes it’s just plain about luck!
Giulia Monego climbing out of a moulin crevasse in Mer de Glace, Chamonix.
Stuck without much to do in late November, with all the lifts of the valley closed, I ended up going twice to climb in crevasses of our big local glacier, Mer de Glace. And though we went with the sole intention of starting the ice climbing season, with such crazy light and colours, it would have been a shame not to shoot. For this particular image, I was hanging from three ice screws halfway down the 30m shaft, belaying and shooting pro-skier Giulia at the same time, and occasionally trying to dodge falling pieces of ice. An hour later, I shot from the very bottom, getting drenched and very, very cold, but also very happy with my images.
Francis Kelsey shreds powder in the Combe de la Pendant, off Grands Montets, Chamonix.
Taken just a few days ago, after one of the big snowfalls that graced the Chamonix valley this last December. As anyone who skies here knows, Chamonix gets tracked out real, real fast. Shot on the second of our three descents of the classic Combe de la Pendant off-piste run, it was already getting tricky to find areas of untouched snow. Yet it was so deep and light that a few tracks didn’t matter, and we spent a while screaming and giggling in the fluffy stuff. I only shot a handful of frames that day, and had my lens covered in snow for this one, but the combination of a great skier on great snow couldn’t disappoint.