The previous couple of weeks have been somewhat calmer than usual, leaving me some time for personal projects and climbing. And since I have a very (very) high altitude expedition coming up soon, I took the opportunity to pre-acclimatize as best as I could, using our local hill, Mont Blanc. Various adventures were had, on ski, foot and paraglider, and though not all were successful, it sure was a lot of fun!
Shortly after coming back from New Zealand in mid-March, I was contacted by one of my colleagues, polar photographer Martin Hartley, asking whether I fancied going to the North Pole in two weeks, replacing him as he was double booked. It’s exactly for this kind of question that I got into adventure photography in the first place, and there wasn’t much hesitation before giving a very positive answer. Cue a couple of days of frantic packing and preparation, and I find myself in Oslo, Longyearbyen and finally Barneo Ice Camp, at around 89°N.
The idea of the trip was to shoot the first edition of the Mamont Polar Cup, where four teams of four to five skiers try to ski the last degree and reach the Pole first. I was covering the all women team, led by polar explorer Bettina Aller, and greatly enjoyed the company of Geraldine, Tamara and Jennifer. In the end, we skied for five days, reached the Pole at 16:30 on April 18th, waited a storm for another day and got picked up by a MI-8 helicopter back to Barneo, where we proceeded to get thoroughly drunk on Mamont vodka (life lesson: never drink with Russians, especially if vodka is to be involved. Never!).
What an adventure!
As the beautiful country of Nepal is hit by a terrible earthquake, here are some images of a happier time, a project shot for Nissan Europe to promote the release of their updated X-Trail 4wd. Titled “The Five Elements of Adventure”, we spent a week last November following the four happy winners of an Instagram competition, along with mountain guide Matt Walker, as they experienced some of the most fun adventure sports that the country has to offer: pendulum jumping, canyoneering, mountain biking, rock climbing and whitewater kayaking. And it didn’t hurt either that both the landscapes and the local people are truly amazing.
The video team produced a great film, which you can watch on Vimeo On Demand: The Five Elements of Adventure. All proceeds from the movie will go desperately needed relief efforts in Nepal.
Here are some of my favorite images from the trip. Enjoy!
Unlike last year, I managed not to injure my knee right before the King of Dolomites freeride photo competition, and it was my great pleasure to participate last month, just before leaving for New Zealand. The basic concept is very simple: take 11 professional ski photographers, team them up with two riders each, then let them loose around the beautiful San Martino di Castrozza area in the Dolomites, and see who comes back with the best shots.
Conditions were extremely challenging, with very little snow in many aspects and terrible weather on the second day. With Paolo Marazzi and Gaspard Piccot, we gambled on finding untouched powder away from the crowds in Tognola on the first day, then went for some, well, atmospheric skiing in the high alpine on the second. In the end, the photo of Paolo above placed 3rd, a great result considering the level of the competition!
Here are some more images, both in and out of competition, enjoy.
After last summer’s shoot with Agathe, we were both keen for another session in the mountains, but this time in winter. With snow everywhere, it was a big challenge to find a suitable location, but we finally remembered that the roof of the Argentière hut, deep in a glacial basin, doubles as a helipad. Since the hut is still unstaffed, with only the winter shelter open, we wouldn’t be bothering anybody by using the space for a couple of hours.
Access was a bit challenging, as Agathe was on a snowboard, we needed a lot of equipment and the hut requires crossing some serious glacier terrain, but we eventually managed, largely thanks to the help of Théo Racine. Agathe braved the very low temperatures for as long as she could, and Théo and her even gave me a little salsa session at the very end! All we had left to do was ski down after sunset, always an exciting moment.
Enjoy the images!
Fall and early winter are hands down the best periods for landscape photography, as the light takes on a special quality, not found at other times. Combined with the frequent downtime from tough conditions (especially this year), and great opportunities for landscape work can arise. Here are some of my favorites from the last month or so.
As a new year begins, it is an opportunity to reflect on the previous 12 months of adventure. Collected here, like previous years (2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010), are my most significant images. In chronological order:
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Back in April, while camped out in East Greenland and busy making first ascents and descents, my good friend Tony Hoare came up with plans for a kayaking trip to the remote coast of British Columbia, later in the summer. The idea was simply to paddle there for a week, taking in the beautiful vistas and the incredible local wildlife, sampling everything from orcas to whales, salmons (yummmm!), sea lions, eagles, bears and even wolves. In September, along with my girlfriend Hulya, Tony and his friend Joe joined us for what turned out to be one of the best adventures I’ve had in a long time – a very unexpected fact for something that doesn’t involve mountains at any stage!
I couldn’t wait to find an opportunity to come back to see more of the Johnstone Strait, and I am very happy to report that I have joined Vertical Shot Expeditions to offer a photo workshop/kayak adventure in British Columbia next July. You can read all about dates, prices and details on the dedicated workshop page: Photographing whales and wild Canadian landscapes by kayak.
Along with my Within the Frame workshop around Mont Blanc in June (for which there are still a few spots open), these will most likely be the only two workshops I offer in 2015, so I encourage everybody to let me know quickly if you have any intentions of joining. There is also a new Workshops page on the website, with details of all upcoming trips.
In the meantime, enjoy some of my images from the trip this year!
In between catalog shoots and big trips to far away lands, I managed to go shoot a cool little project: with the ever-keen Tito Tomasi (remember Aiguillette des Houches) and the very talented Antoine Taillefer (who I happened to shoot taking off during the 2013 Red Bull Elements), we hiked toward la Tournette, a popular mountain with gorgeous views over the Annecy lake and the Mont Blanc range. The idea was to combine mountainbiking and mini-wing (a tiny version of a paraglider which flies a lot faster).
With big time constraints, tons of people on the trail and Antoine needing to hike back up to take off after each attempt, it was definitely a very challenging project, but we did manage to get a couple of fun images. Enjoy!
One thing I really love about living in a place like Chamonix is the amount of raw talent and creativity found in such a small place. It’s almost as if it was a magnet for slightly crazy, very talented athletes! One of them is undoubtedly Agathe Petrini, a recent graduate from a fancy Paris dance school and Chamonix local.
The natural thing to do, of course, was to go shoot dancing in the mountains! On one of the few sunny days in late August, we headed to the Aiguilles Rouges and spend the day photographing her crazy moves with beautiful backdrops of the Mont Blanc range. Here are a few outtakes from the day.
As a sidenote, Agathe will soon start offering dance lessons in Cham, I’ll be happy to forward contact info if any local reader is interested!