My Blog by tag: Svalbard

From the Tropics to the Arctic Circle

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In 1972 Paul & Sarah Howcroft founded Rohan clothing in Skipton Yorkshire. Rohan was a realm in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. The first product was a pair mountain salopettes.

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Looking back at the catalogues from the 70′s & 80′s its interesting to see how styles in design and art direction have developed. Today the brand, although no longer in private hands is moving from strength to strength. Having recently been acquired by H Young Holdings PLC the brand continues to innovate and evolve.

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Now in 2016 we aim for a much looser, more human feel, natural and real. They call it “Lifestyle”. The marketing account for Rohan is now held by Joe Public Ltd and I have for a long time admired the work they have produced. All the current fashion imagery for the brochures and website is shot on location.

I was recently delighted  to be invited to put forward a proposal to shoot the Spring & Summer imagery for both web and print. The process involved submitting work and a treatment to illustrate the look and feel I wanted to project and to see if this aligned with the vision of the creative team.

I was thrilled to be successful and in January we travelled to the tropical Cape Verde Islands to shoot Spring Summer 2016.

I’d heard of Cape Verde but knew very little about it, thinking it was just one island that was becoming more and more popular as a winter sun resort. It is in fact a cluster of 10 volcanic islands off the coast of West Africa, an archipelago once belonging to Portugal . Under Portuguese rule it had originally seen prosperity as a slaving post but now, an independent state, it is mostly dependant on tourism.

As international travellers we had to fly into the popular resort Island of Sal which is completely barren with great beaches but little else and in my opinion one of the least interesting islands. Reaching the much more scenic and fascinating islands of Sao Vicente and the spectacular Santo Antao requires a lot more determination to reach. Which means they’re largely unspoilt.

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The trip from Sal to Sao Vincente required a tiny 16 seater plane we had all to ourselves. Great place to start the shoot.

We needed a townscape location, we wanted to suggest travel to somewhere distant and exciting but not too under developed and 3rd World, somewhere the Rohan customer might aspire to go. Mindelo is the main port, once a coaling stop on transatlantic steam voyages now a stop off point for yachties heading West.

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We found the perfect battered Mercedes taxi.

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To get to the next island location we had to take a ferry. All these means of transport provided great shooting opportunities.

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Santo Antao is an interesting island because one side of it is completely dry and barren but to the East of the mountains of Topo de Coroa and Pico da Cruz the landscape is lush and green with spectacular mountain vistas. The prevailing weather comes from the East and when it is forced upwards by the mountain range it dumps its moisture.

_DSC9090Shooting above the clouds was an exciting experience.

041_webThe scenery from the mountain tops is absolutely breathtaking and there are well constructed roads from which to view it.

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The lush valleys offer a great variety of locations

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Amongst the images that were intended to focus on product features I was keen to include pictures that had the suggestion of a story, interacting with real people and conveying a sense of life.

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It was great catching the last of the evening light inside the crater of the extinct volcano. Thanks to the team, L-R Crystal, Lucy, Ian, Phil, Gabrielle, Andrew and myself. Thanks Tom for taking the pic.

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All the images we shot were catalogued in Adobe Lightroom as we went along. Ian, the creative director and I agreed on a unique colour treatment for the Spring/Summer images and the final set of chosen files were all carefully graded and balanced in Lightroom before being output for final use.To see the final brochure click here

Following the success of Spring/Summer I was again asked to shoot the Autumn/Winter range. The location had to be a complete contrast to what we had shot before, we needed landscapes with snow and ice in July.

Svalbard is an Archipelago administered by Norway and situated just inside the Arctic Circle and only 650 miles from the North Pole. Once the exclusive domain of whalers, trappers, coal miners and Polar bears there is now an international airport at Longyearbyen, the worlds most Northern City and tourism is increasing.

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There are glaciers, snowy mountain tops and fabulous unspoilt scenery with the bonus of the legacy from its former history with husky dog sleds and an abandoned  Soviet Era Mining settlement.

The route to Svalbard is via Oslo and we spent a day in this buzzing modern capital city shooting suits and dresses. Then it’s a 3 hr flight to Longbyearbyen where in July the sun never sets, 24 hr daylight takes some getting used to, the sun never goes down, it just moves around you in the sky.

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There’s a huge glacier to the North at Nordenskiöld Bay that accessible only by boat.

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The Captain was happy to let us shoot onboard. At one point  the engines were cut and we were thrilled to see a Minke whale breach the waves.

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Shooting at the Glacier involved landing in the bay and an overnight stay at the remote Nordenskiöld Lodge, the Northernmost commercial accommodation in the world.

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With no running water or electricity, Nordenskiöld is a true expedition lodge in the middle of the Arctic. They use wood to heat the cabin which has only 5 bedrooms, and drinking water is melted glacier. Charging batteries was a bit tricky from a tiny generator. Our guide Adraea was armed in case we encountered a polar bear !

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Got some great shots on the glacier.

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Ian and I decided on a much cooler grade for the images overall with a little less colour than the Spring/Summer images.

The journey to our next location was by inflatable. Everyone had to wear full immersion suits. All our kit was sealed in waterproof bags.

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The last ton of coal mined

DSC_1240Pyramiden is a fascinating place. Founded in the 1920′s this former Russian mining  settlement lies at the foot of a pyramid shaped mountain from which coal was being extracted until  as recently as 1998. A whole community had developed around the mine with a sports & cultural complex, containing the Northernmost swimming pool and grand piano, a school, town hall and hotel, all now eerily abandoned since the residents left in a hurry after Perestroika meant funding was withdrawn.

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During the 1930′s shipping was increasing around the Svalbard region so radio communications became necessary and the Norwegian authorities chose a remote spit of land at Kapp Linne Fuglereservat to establish a permanently manned radio station. During the war the station was destroyed but rebuilt in 1945 and its communication role increased and the station expanded . In 1977 a satellite dish was installed.Fibre optic cable technology eventually rendered the station redundant and the former technicians accommodation has been converted to a boutique hotel.

IMG_1102The majestic mountain scenery around the radio station was stunningly beautiful.

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We spent two days shooting at this amazing location before returning by open boat to Longyearbyen. The sea was perfectly still for our return journey so we could relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery without fear of immersion.

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There was just one final image required. The famous brightly coloured buildings of Longyearbyen contrasting against the spectacular mountains made the perfect backdrop for our front cover.

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Thanks must go to everyone from Basecamp Explorer  and their constantly vigilant guides. Basecamp are specialists in adventure tourism in Spitsbergen and helped make our trip so successful. We never did see any bears but we knew that had we encountered one we would have been in safe hands.

To see what the finished Autumn/Winter brochure looked like click here

All that remains is to say thank you to Ian & Chris at Joe Public for their confidence and to Phil Rothwell at Rohan designs for his encouragement and sense of humour, Models Crystal, Andrew & Duncan for their tolerance & professionalism, stylist Lucy for her fastidious attention to detail and my assistant Tom for his dedication to duty and determination to master Adobe Lightroom.