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Best of 2014

As a new year begins, it is an opportunity to reflect on the previous 12 months of adventure. Collected here, like previous years (2013, 20122011 and 2010), are my most significant images. In chronological order:

Canadian Jen Olson and Frenchman Aurélien Vaissière climb “Lau Bij” (WI5) in Cogne, Gran Paradiso, Italy.

Shooting ice climbing at night, lit with flashes, was something I had wanted to do for a while. I ended up doing this on assignment for the prestigious Sports Illustrated, to illustrate alternative winter sports in the run up to the Sochi Games. Big logistic issues, but the shoot was very successful, in great part thanks to the efforts of my two awesome models, Jen Olson and Aurélien Vaissière. Can’t wait to try this again this season!

 

Jon Gupta climbs on the Douglas Boulder, North Face of Ben Nevis, in a full Scottish gale.

Scotland is where I really learned winter and mixed climbing, and I had wanted to go back there for a while. We ended up spending a lovely week in Glencoe’s Strath Lodge, though climbing was very limited due to ridiculous snow conditions. Even though we didn’t succeed in much, we had a ton of fun, and it was great to reconnect with my friend and expedition leader Jon Gupta (from Mountain Expeditions), shown here enjoying Scottish conditions on the Douglas Boulder, shortly before we bailed.

 

Bård Øymar freeride skiing in Courmayeur, Italy, on a powder day.

A big storm blew through Europe just as I was coming back from the UK (and the drive from Glencoe to London, on a left hand drive, through floods and raging winds, was an interesting one) and we had the first real powder dump of the season. I went to shoot with Arc’teryx athlete Bård Øymar for a Norwegian ski magazine, in lovely Courmayeur, and got some great shots and amazing untouched powder. Unfortunately, on the last run of the day, he landed a jump which triggered a small windslab, catching me by surprise. I was only carried a small way, but my bindings failed to release and my left ACL got cleanly ruptured. This injury, which I am still recovering from, definitely changed all my plans for the year…

 

Action sequence of wingsuit pilot Laurent Frat exiting from Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix.

I had big projects for shooting wingsuit this year, but the best image was undoubtedly this one, showing Laurent Frat exiting from Aiguille du Midi, with gorgeous Mont Blanc in the background.

 

Teams of skiers head to Brèche de la Meije from Refuge du Promontoire on the classic last day of the Tour de la Meije raid, Parc National des Écrins, France.

As it turns out, you can ski pretty well without an ACL, as long as you have the right knee brace. I ended up joining Quentin Lombard, Benjamin Grosso and Thibault Sibille for the end of the classic Tour de la Meije ski tour. Amazing atmosphere through the wild Écrins, up and over Brèche de la Meije, and with some serious spring snow freeriding on Glacier de l’Homme! This was shot at sunrise, showing the warm Refuge du Promontoire from which we started the last day.

 

Tony Hoare takes off the skins from his skis prior to the first descent of Birdbone Peak.

My biggest worry after getting injured was that I might have to cancel the big expedition for the year, heading to Eastern Greenland. Thankfully, my surgeon agreed to postpone the ACL reconstruction til after I would get back, and I was allowed to go. With good friend and fellow photographer Tony Hoare, we had a blast during these two weeks in a relatively unexplored area of North Liverpool Land, making several first ascents and many first ski descents. This shot was taken on the second ascent of Birdbone Peak, right above our camp.

 

Tony Hoare enjoys a swig of whisky and a beautiful sunset at nearly midnight on the summit of Birdbone Peak.

And one of the best memories for the whole year: we went up Birdbone Peak again late at night, enjoying sunset and whisky with the midnight sun. I love my office!

 

Hulya Vassail impersonates various animals while bored at a belay, Ailefroide, France.

And now for something completely different… As I started being able to climb again in August, Hulya and I headed to Ailefroide in the Écrins range, and went on some easy multipitch climbs. On our first route, we had to wait at an uncomfortable belay for over an hour for a slow party in front of us, so she started imitating various animals. See if you can guess all of them!

 

Agathe Petrini dances in front of Mont Blanc, high in Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix.

One of the best things about my job is that I get to work with amazingly talented people. Agathe Petrini is a dancer who grew up in Chamonix, so taking her to perform in the mountains was a logical idea… We spent a really fun day in the Aiguilles Rouges, enjoying the view over Mont Blanc and brought back some very unique images!

 

Hulya Vassail and Tony Hoare paddle through the Johnstone Strait shortly before sunset, Vancouver Island, BC.

 My fall was a complete whirlwind of traveling, with barely any time at home. The first trip of the season was kayaking in the Johnstone Strait, in British Columbia. Though I keep telling myself I have to stop picking up new adventure sports to practice, I have no regrets about beginning to sea kayak, given the views, the wildlife and the awesome way of traveling through the jagged BC coastline. And even better, I’ll be back next year for a workshop!

 

Tito Tomasi (on bike) and Antoine Taillefer (on speed wing) ride together near the summit of Tournette, Annecy, France.

Barely back from Canada, and I headed up to la Tournette to shoot with Tito Tomasi and Antoine Taillefer, as they had a crazy project of combining mountain biking and paragliding! Very challenging logistics (the miniwing is going at over 80km/h!) but great light and talented athletes made this image possible!

 

Sophie and Charley Radcliffe run on Aiguillette des Houches, with Aiguille du Plan in the background, Chamonix.

In between trips, I managed a few commercial shoots, as this trail running one for Montane, one of my oldest and favorite clients. Though the forecast was horrible, we headed out anyway and were rewarded with gorgeous autumn light in Aiguillette des Houches (and a rainstorm in Col des Montets the next day). Big mountains, small people is a constant theme through my photography, and this may be my best shot of it yet!

 

Magaly Charluet shows her damaged hands after a harrowing climbing attempt on the Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite, California.

 Just ten days after returning from Canada, it was time to go back to North America, this time for a short trip to Yosemite. Though things didn’t go as planned and I failed yet again on the Nose (highpoint of Boot Flake, at least), the trip was worth it even just for this single image, of climbing partner Mag Charluet, after four days of heat and hardship on El Capitan.

The new Nissan X-Trail drives through a landslide near Kodare, Nepal.

I would never have guessed that a car picture would make the cut in one of these posts, but there we go: in late November, I was hired by Nissan to shoot stills of a Nepalese adventure connected to the launch of a new version of their 4×4 X-Trail. It was an incredibly intense week, but so much fun to work with a great production team and to broaden my photographic horizons.

 

Mathis Dumas climbs steep ice deep inside Mer de Glace, Chamonix, France.

 Still way jetlagged and plain exhausted, I was coerced by ice wunderkind Mathis Dumas to go shoot some steep ice in Mer de Glace. As always, being inside the glacier leads to crazy light effects and atmospheres. It doesn’t hurt when the models compete in the Ice Climbing World Cup, either.

 

Tito Tomasi rides his fat bike on a very snowy Pointe de Merdassier, in early winter. Year round mountainbiking!

The last shoot for the year, following Tito again as he tests the limits of the new Rocky Mountain fat bike. Not deterred by the snowpack or the exposed ridge, he rode nearly the whole thing! But the best shot came from the way up, with the spectacular sunrise over the Aravis range.

Let’s hope for more of the same: adventures, friends and good light, in 2015!

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