I don’t have a great back story to my photography career. I didn't grow up thinking, "I want to be a photographer". I didn't have a cool grandad who gave me a camera (though I did have a cool grandad). And I didn't pore over photography books on the living room floor as a child. I do though remember wanting to work outdoors (perhaps because I played golf beside a Forestry Commission). Which is odd, because I've spent much of my working life helping a FTSE 100 company deliver quality digital solutions.
Photography for me started in 2003. After countless walking and climbing trips in the Scottish Highlands, and ventures into the Alps, I decided I wanted to visit more remote mountains. Galen Rowell’s iconic images of the majestic K2 in Pakistan always captured my attention and a trek to Concordia and a climb out over a 5500m+ high pass called the Gondogoro La looked amazing. The wilds of Alaska and the Yukon also caught my eye, as did the high Tibetan plateau, but the region that most captured my attention was Patagonia, at the foot of South America. Specifically the peaks of Cerro Torre and Cerro Chalten, aka Mount FitzRoy, in Los Glaciares National Park.
The first image I saw of Cerro Torre was in a National Geographic magazine. It was taken from the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap by US climber and author, Gregory Crouch, who, along with David Fasel, Stephan Siegriest and Thomas Ulrich, made the first winter ascent of Cerro Torre's remote west face. They made their base camp at Circos de los Altares, a glacial cirque underneath the Torres that can only be reached by trekking 40km on the ice cap or by very technical climbing over the spires. I decided I wanted to visit Circos de los Altares and see the same view. So I did. In 2003, in the company of local mountain guide, Pedro Fina, I spent 3 weeks trekking, camping and climbing on the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap. It was awesome.
At the time, I wasn't overly interested in photography but I'd borrowed an old film SLR for the trip. When I got back, I sent some pictures to Geoff Birtles, editor at the time of High Mountain Sports Magazine, and he published them in the magazine as a 6-page spread. They weren't especially good photos but the weather in Patagonia can be horrendous and it's not often you get a good view of the towers.
I also wrote a couple of articles for a South American magazine, Patagon Journal. This piqued an interest for me in travel writing and I went back to Patagonia and researched the material I needed to write the first comprehensive English-language travel and trekking guidebook to Patagonia's Los Glaciares National Park. During this time, Pedro and I joined up again, enchaining a series of glaciers and high passes to visit the Supercanaleta, a 1500m high flange carved out the remote west face of FitzRoy, on a circumnavigation of the mountain.
It quickly became obvious to me that I preferred taking photographs to writing. What frustrated me though was the wonderful places I was visiting but what I felt was the relatively poor quality of my images. I realised that, as with most things, what you get out of photography relates to the effort you put in so I decided if I wanted to be a photographer (specifically documenting people interacting with the outdoors) it was time for me to learn the trade and focus my energy on how I can create top-quality images which help me to serve a purpose, one that suited either my clients or myself (my goal being to satisfy both).