Glenmore lodge, Aviemore, Scotland.
It’s a long drive to up to Aviemore. About 9 or even 10 hours, but its usually worth it just for the welcome we always get at Glenmore Lodge. The lodge is Scotland’s national outdoor centre, nestled in the heart of the cairngorms and has been providing training to the outdoor industry and enthusiast alike for over 60 years.
It’s about half past eight when we pull into the car park, climb out and stretch ourselves before the short climb up to the bar. Lucy (Creamer) and I have driven up here to take part in a photo-shoot for Marmot clothing, one of the lodges major sponsors.
Hopefully over the next 3 days we’ll manage to get some great shots of the Lodge instructors doing there thing, as well as a whole bunch of other stuff that can be used in forthcoming brochures and adverts.
Lu and I are teaming up with Martin Panton from Marmot, who’s brought up clothing from the Winter 2010/11 range, Scott Webster “Mr Marketing” from the Lodge and Mick Ryan a major driving force from UKC (www.ukclimbing.com) one of the most popular climbing websites on the planet.
So with a cold beer pressed firmly to my lips, I sit back and listen to our itinerary for the next 3 days, it’s going to be fun!
No Alpine starts for us, its breakfast at 8, scrambled eggs on toast, OJ and a Cappuccino. The food here is awesome and if I wasn’t already carrying a few extra pounds (KG’s) I’d worry about the dreaded “Lodge podge”
Our model for the day is George McEwan one of the head instructors, ice climber extraordinaire and an old friend.
Like most outdoors and location work the logistics and effort you put in almost always outweigh the final result. That single image might look great on the front cover of a brochure, but only you know the suffering that went into getting it - Four adults for most of the day. Walking up snowy hills, carrying essential climbing gear, food and water, but 100m of static rope for abseiling, rigging gear and obviously camera gear. When we finally arrive at the base of the climb the Abseil rope is rigged, I climb up and then abseil into position, George and Lucy then climb the route 3 times for photos. It has to be said its not the greatest conditions, no blue skies or panoramic views, just 60mph winds and biting spindrift, but we do what we can which means shoot a few frames and then pop the camera back into a bag, turn my back into the wind and try and dry it off with a cloth. It’s a slow process, but my “O” ring sealed Nikon does us proud and after about 1.5hrs we strip out all the gear and scurry down to where we’ve left our packs for a well needed hot drink and a spicy tuna buttie. Then its crampons off and another 60mins walk back to the car. In no time at all we’re all back in the Café for the customary “Tea and Cake” at least 3 of us are, just as his tea touches his lips, George got the call – Accident on the hill – so off he had to go, no peace for the rescue services, but for us an extra piece, of cake to Divvy up!
Today I’m spending the day on the hill with a group doing Basic winter skills. It’s an introduction to things like walking in snow and on ice of all gradients. Using crampons, walking poles and ice axes and some very basic instruction on Navigation. Mick Ryan’s coming along too, he’s shooting video of a competition winner who’s on the course. Yep the lucky winner got kitted out in a stack load of the latest Marmot gear, gets 2 days instruction, all the accommodation and food as well as there own personal videographer (Mick’s video will be uploaded to the UKC website very soon) that reads “Winner” in any language.
We head out the door at about 10a.m (I like these starts) its just a short drive to our starting point, the Aviemore Ski area, from there we head up the slopes for about 1.5hrs. The visibility’s not great again, but you do have to remember, we’re in the Mountains and just make do with what you’ve got. The day seems to move swiftly on, Ice axe arresting, walking in crampons and before you know it we’re heading back down the hill in failing light.
One of my “Bug Bears’ as a photographer is BAGS, or rather the lack of suitable ones for taking on the hill. For this type of work I usually end up using my trusty old Marmot 30L Alpinist rucksack and wrapping all my lenses and large accessories in Neoprene wraps. For ease of use I also have a large, un-padded “Bum Bag” which I carry around my front with my camera and a 24 -70mm / 2.8 attached, some extra batteries, a cloth and a couple of 8Gig CF cards – this combo has worked well over the years for those “Big days out” on the hill.
After 2 pretty big days on the hill my legs and back are quite happy that today we’re staying slightly closer to the road.
Some more ice climbing, Sleeping bag, Ice cave and maybe some cross country photos are on the agenda for today. Nothing’s more than a 30 min hike and doesn’t require any kind of rigging, so I’m taking a slightly longer (read heavier) 300mm / 2.8 lens with me today so I can move about the hillside a little more freely and shoot some interesting angles.
First up is Ice climbing, well its actually more about the Jackets than either the climber (Scott Webster) or the climb. So, introducing Stage left the very Green 2010/11 “Stretch Man” it’s a kind of do everything, windproof, waterproof pretty cool looking jacket. Scott duly climbs a band of ice up a ramp and I shoot from the hillside. Next it’s everyone’s favourite, the Genesis Jacket. This one’s in Red and very striking it is too. I climb along side Scott and shoot with a wider lens.
Next we head over to an area with a Snow cave that Lucy and Martin “prepared earlier” Marmot are looking for a sleeping bag shot to use in an advert, this’ll be the third one I’ve done for them and so far we’ve managed to stay away from “just a bog standard” type of image. I like the idea of shooting inside a snow cave, it’ll be a bit of a tight squeeze with Scott, Lucy, myself and Martin all crammed in but we manage. Its Lucy and Scott in the bags. Me shooting, and Martin pointing my off-camera flash wherever I ask him. It all works really well, the light pours in from the entrance silhouetting the climbers, I bounce some fill flash back at them and “hey presto” we have a great image. I’m using my 14-24mm / 2.8 and have to be careful in these cramped conditions not to get either Martins hand or my own feet in the shot. We work on this theme for 10mins and then move on to some “digging” shots. This time it’s the synthetic Baffin jacket, in a very photogenic “Citronelle” (don’t you just love the colour’s manufactures come up with – what exactly is Eclipse/Tempest?) that gets the treatment. Again it’s just a soupcon of off camera flash with some rear sync thrown in for good measure to blur the falling ice.
We seem to have been going for ages but its still only lunch time, so we have lunch it would be rude not to really. Then it’s a change of footwear, slip into something a little more rigid and literally Ski out the door.
Lucy and Scott skin along the track, Martin has his director’s head on and again we capture some great images.
Later in the bar I start to download and edit the three days images. It’s definitely a love; hate part of the process for me. The good images always put a smile on my face. Hopefully there aren’t too many bad ones, more likely ones that I can see could have been done differently and that annoys me, but it is after all a learning process.
All in all it’s been a great weekend. We’ve hung out with some great people, seen some old friends and made some new ones.
Like Mick Ryan said, “living the dream”