Making of… Sprayway AW14 Mountain
Going the Extra Mile (literally and figuratively)
Exciting times on planet Sprayway. The brief for the Autumn/Winter shoot came in two parts, with the Hill, Trail and Urban ranges made up one part and whole separate brief for the Mountain gear.
You can see a selection of my favourites from this shoot in all their full screen glory here: tommymartin.me/portfolios/Sprayway_AW14_Mountain/
Sprayway celebrate their 40th anniversary next year. Coinciding with this is the launch of a range of gear that gets back to their mountaineering roots. Their designers have gone all out to create an all new range of top quality technical clothing aimed at the serious mountain use.
The last couple of seasons have used the same professional models across all the ranges. AW14 Mountain needed a rethink. Getting far enough and high enough for these shots was going to require a different kind of model, and we wanted models who look like they know what they are doing on real mountains. The kind who aren’t actually models. More of mountaineers, in fact.
We recruited Max Hunter and Lena Brune, both professional mountaineers, neither with any modelling experience whatsoever.
Obviously, this year we wanted also big mountains. Max and Lena are based in Fort William, right in the shadow of Ben Nevis. If you want to shoot big mountains in the UK, Ben Nevis is a natural choice. Previous mountain shoots I’ve done for Sprayway have all been around my local stomping ground, the Lake District. With over 9 years experience shooting around the Lakes I’m pretty well qualified at coming up with locations and getting models to and from those locations. With two highly qualified mountain guides as our models, both with years of local knowledge to draw on, I was more than happy to shoot in an area that I didn’t know so well. As it turned out, not having to worry about looking after our models’ safety or worry too much about details like navigation made my life a whole lot easier.
We had a quick trip to recce the area and meet Max and Lena the week before the shoot. The CMD Arete stood out to me the perfect place to start. A proper, knife-edge ridge, with some spectacular views across to Ben Nevis.
On day one the weather had other ideas, and Nevis’ head was stuck firmly in the cloud all day. One of the first things I learned about photographing landscape is that you go with the weather and light that you have, and don’t waste your time looking for the weather that you were imaging. Yeah, the views would have been great, but we were here to make real pictures of real mountain days. And here we were.
The low cloud on the way up made for some fantastic scenes. The bright colours of the new mountain jackets in the dense mist just looked fantastic in the dense mist covering the sharp edges of the arete and I’m really happy with how the shots turned out. The natural colours of the rock and it’s covering of lichens worked perfectly. Max and Lena were on their home ground, climbing over rocks right in the heart of one their favourite places in the world. They forgot all about the camera and got on with doing exactly the thing we needed them to do.
On the way back down, with the sun approaching the horizon we got a fantastic light show across the mountains, complete with a brief appearance from my personal meteorological favourites, crepuscular rays.
The end of the day often brings these kinds of light shows in the mountains. You have to be ready for them when they happen because they don’t hang around for long. I could see what was coming and had the models in place and cameras set just in time. It can be difficult to find the energy to keep shooting at the end of a long days’ walk, but when I see skies like these building up I tend to find reserves I didn’t know I had.
Day two continued the theme. The cloud was set in and wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Rather than spending another day getting up on the ridge to repeat the same shots we’d got on day one, we changed our plans and headed up to the Charles Inglis Clark (C.I.C.) Memorial Hut, right in the shadow of the spectacular cliffs on the North face of Ben Nevis.
OK, we’ve got some pretty great mountains in the Lakes, but this is something else. With low-flying clouds being shredded over the dark jagged peaks above us I couldn’t hope for better backdrop. And with a beautiful soft light falling exactly where it was needed I couldn’t been happier. I did think about reflectors, I briefly considered breaking out a couple of speedlights, and then I got on with doing my job. It really wasn’t broke. If I’d had a half a dozen pack horses loaded with piece of lighting kit I could imagine I don’t think I would have used any of it.
Getting the right exposure to balance the foreground and background was a bit of tightrope, but the histograms I was seeing on the backs of the cameras said we were getting plenty of what we needed. The LCD monitors on cameras don’t have anything like the contrast range to show what the camera is capable of capturing. It’s the histogram that tells you whether you’re going to have what you need to do a good job in post. Always trust that little graph.
I guess it’s pretty obvious when I’m excited about what I’m seeing through the viewfinder.
This was definitely one of those times; perfect light, perfect backdrop.
Thomas and Stuart quickly set up what appeared to be an improvised jumble sale, with every jacket in every colour spread out over the rocks and we were able to tick off every one of the outfits we needed to cover.
We went further up to shoot what turned out to be may favourite images of the whole shoot.
Two very good, very long days. Two great mountaineer/models/guides. One happy client. One very happy photographer.
You can find my personal favourites from the shoot in all their full screen glory here: tommymartin.me/portfolios/Sprayway_AW14_Mountain/