Posts Tagged ‘Life’
MDS 2013 Roundup
This years MDS was as unique as any. I suppose the only constant is the toughness. There were new faces, returning faces, young faces, and old faces. There were race winners and life winners and those who did not make the end. But without doubt everyone will go home with an experience of a lifetime.
Covering the MDS has always been a real pleasure for me. Not because of the race but more for what the desert throws up at us. It strips us back to the raw. Show us who we really are. It then asks us to live it in a way no other environment I have visited has ever achieved. This bit I still cannot explain but if you ever have the privelege to spend time with bedouin, you will find no truer human beings.
I have travelled to deserts for 30 years now. Made private expeditions, taken children across them, many adults to the Middle East Empty Quarter and I have run the MDS as well as returned for the last 7 years to photograph it. It never disappoints. Read the rest of this entry »
The Quest finally got underway today and it was warmer than any year I have attended… Out car read 1 degree on the way to Braeburn.
Here are a few photos and I will blog post stories as they emerge.. For today it was just important to get the first images out. We are now at Braeburn editing, posting and creating our first short video for the race….. The first mushers are due in around 11pm so it could be a long night… Posts coming…
I have now finalised the African Safari DSLR workshop thanks to Rebecca Hart who worked so hard to pull together much of the information for the trip.
We will work together on personal filming projects and are inviting participants to join us, work alongside and learn from the workshop sessions between game drives and bush walks that I will deliver during the time on Safari.
All the details are in this document – African Safari Workshop – so please contact me/us if you are interested in joining the trip.
I finally finished my two Sierra Leone edits… What a joy to do.
Sierra Leone had, for a long time, been one of those destinations I have wanted to reach. I have seen horrendous reports of war, expedition logs from friends, charity banners, all sorts of stuff and I just needed to go to see for myself, and now I am not sure why it took so long….
But even so, when I was asked if I would go my initial response was “no. Not unless you can find a commission fee.” Because at the time my head was too full, charity was not a priority and I just could afford to do it “on my own dime”… Also, charity in Africa has always been a contentious issue for me so to go and give when I was not willing simply didn’t make sense.
A month went by and SuitCase finished filming and photographing at the Diamond Jubilee in Windsor and I was exhausted…. I wanted a break. A holiday, some time in the sun and without any stress, maybe relaxing on the beach…. I pondered a few destinations, Morocco, LA, Scillies (too cold, though) but nothing grabbed me…. And then on about the third evening of no Jubilee, tapping my fingers or twiddling my thumbs, I called Lewis Alderidge, one of the organisers of the Sierra Leone Marathon.. The person who had called a month or so earlier…. “So! tell me more” was pretty much all I said to him…. Lewis “rabbited” (don’t take offence mate..) on for about 30 minutes but what he didn’t know was that I was sold in the first 15 seconds….
In short, I told him I would go if they found my flight and ground costs and I would provide images and a short 3 minute film for YouTube. I was very clear and said that I couldn’t afford to fund myself and I wanted a break…. Africa sounded like a good idea. Charity was not in my head but if it gave me a week away and I could help them a bit, I was up for it…. [Is that harsh?]
Anyway, he confirmed, booked my ticket and I prepped for it the night before going. Oh apart form the jabs I needed…
In all seriousness I was delighted to be going… I did think I would have a few days photographing the coast which I had read so much about but it turned out differently.. As with all charities they needed to get me everywhere.. To see everything. Film the lot and photograph a gazillion children in school and so on. They needed blood. But then that is what they do well.
As soon as we landed, my visions and memories were quite bluntly yet beautifully taken back 20 years to when I went to Nigeria.. I have visited South Africa and Kenya also but this was different. Raw in every sense. Nothing had changed in 20 years… The airport had its damp musty smell, bars on windows and unpainted walls, masses of people outside waiting to get your bags, take you to the hotel that paid them the most commission, or just stare at you as you walked through the doors to the outside humidity and mass of more people.
I was back in Africa and hadn’t realised how much I had missed it. How much it hit every sense I had. I stood happily for around two hours just waiting to find out where we were going. Stood and watched the organised mayhem that Africa is.
Eventually we were bustled onto three buses and taken to the ferry across to Freetown. Our truck made it on but the big one got stuck at the ramp. Not that anyone was bothered. The shouting began between the driver and boat people. But not in a nasty way. Just the way they discuss this stuff… Who was pushing, who was driving and who was propping up the back wheels to in order to get the bus on the boat… I photographed it along with everything else I saw… The people on the boat, the runners who had travelled with me for the Marathon. Everyone sweating profusely but just accepting that this is Africa.
Eventually we sailed, beers were consumed and the journey really got underway.
I will leave you there for now and let the videos tell the story…. I thoroughly enjoyed working for this charity and would do it again… Street Child do a great but most importantly and honest job of getting education to kids and kids off the street into families… they gave me back my faith in charity done well… Kiln who sponsored the race were the perfect match for the event and their runners did a great job in raising lots of needed cash too…
The Sierra Leoneon people are perhaps the most beautiful I have met for a long time.. They have true soul. A happiness we are missing so much in our own youth and a deep beauty I just can’t explain. So go, experience it and love it for what it is… And if you can help the charity, then give a little bit too..
I hope you enjoy the videos.
Well, if you followed us at the Yukon Quest and loved that then follow us at the Marathon des Sables in April.
The race is 250 Km through the Sahara and runners carry all their own gear and food for 7 days.. It is run over 6 stages looking a little like this… Day 1 – 28km, day 2 – 35km, day 3 – 38km, day 4/5 – a huge 80km, day 6 – 42km and day 7 – 21km.. So pretty damn tough.
Runners will battle temperatures of up to 50 degrees, blisters and soreness like never before, total exhaustion and inevitably some will drop out… They cover sand dunes that go for ever, mountains and valley salt flats on a daily basis. This years race will be as exciting as ever so go to those FB sites and follow it through here…
We will for the first time be filming it with GoPro and mobile cams and uploading to the social networks as we go along… Images will also be uploaded to the official site on a daily basis… I will upload blogs for the English-speaking runners and supporters and other reports can be seen on the official site www.darbaroud.com and the Facebook pages mentioned earlier… There is no shortage of information coming out of the desert from the 7th April. No excuse not know what happening deep in the Sahara.
Search this site for older articles from previous years to get a flavour.. It’s the toughest footrace on earth.
I left Whitehorse two weeks back after spending three weeks following the Yukon Quest. Now I sit in a cafe working through images, planning for my next adventure, planning for the new business SuitCase Media & Productions. Well, not necessarily new but the growth of my business and who I actually am.
But this part of the world, North America, has really stolen a piece of my heart. The land, the skies and the people.. I fell in love with Alaska and the Yukon.
I have tried to put my finger on what it is as I have travelled to some pretty great places over the last 30 years. I have seen most of the world and many cultures… I have fallen in love with many places but on a different level. It’s almost like I was at home when following the Quest.
I love the way people live. Purchasing things that were necessary not as here in the malls where you can buy a gazillion things you don’t need. Clothes to fill your already full wardrobe, covers for your phone for which some people must have a separate wardrobe too, another pair of shoes for Wednesdays! All rubbish, all fashion but not necessary.
What I noticed in Alaska and Yukon was that everyone had a truck because they needed one. Needed it to carry the wood for the fire. A beautiful fire but a necessary one. Many have a skidoo for the same. They need it for their livelihood to to get about. Shops in the main street sell goods that are necessary and in Whitehorse the exceptions were goods for tourists which provides and income for the residents.
But more than this too there is a cosmopolitan feel to Whitehorse. People from around the world and all ages. A good youth culture and a feeling of modernity without brash flashiness. As I walked the streets during my last days it was beginning to warm up and I wanted to stay behind to witness Spring. To see the rivers break. I imagined getting back to Dawson to see the ice bridge break up and the hills come alive with the sun. And see the carnival atmosphere of the towns when Spring finally takes hold.
I did not stay, though, and am now in UK and off to Paris tomorrow. Then Barcelona on Tuesday. Both beautiful places that many people dream to visit so I am grateful for everything I have and everywhere I have been, and the piece of my heart I left in North America will still be there when I return. I hope that will be soon and I have many people I would like to meet up with again.
A final note is “good luck” to Lance,, Brent, Kristy and Hugh Neff in the Iditarod.. I don’t think I left anyone out.
I just watched Brent Sass preparing his dogs for the next leg of the Yukon Quest, from Peli Crossing to McCabe Creek. I watched in awe of how he is with his dogs… He had a bag of booties and told someone how he bought 4000 of them before the race. 4000 at 85cents each… Thats a lot of cents!
He then attended each dog taking the paws one by one and checking them for soreness or injury. Not just checking though, he took each paw and pushed gently checking between the claws. He then would kiss the dog and give it a hug, then slipping on a bootie and tying it carefully.. Each foot painstakingly checked and cared for. Each with a new bootie for the next leg of the journey and all to be repeated again very soon.
Brent shows his team the respect they are due for without them he would not figure in the race. If he did not care for them he would not be cared for by them. But more importantly if he did not care it would eventually bite in the rear in some way…
He chatted to some of the photographers with passion too. Never too busy to give of himself. Never too tired even though he had not sleep much for the last 8 days… Never too focussed that others don’t matter.
Brent is a kind of special competitor.
He is not alone, though as this race seems to breed special people and strong teams.. I have watched other in the same way and they are different from other sportsmen that are so often too obsessed with themselves and non caring. The Yukon Quest has some real stars.
Last night I watched Lance Mackey arrive at Stepping Stone, stop for a Burrito and then checkout.. He had no reason to chat but did… But that is another story and my next….. The race continues…
The rest of Brents team… http://on.fb.me/AqJLtm
Images of Dawson and our time in the City….
We are now into our last day in Dawson City and I find myself not wanting to move on. Its a beautiful town at the base of Midnight Dome on the Yukon river. This time of year the river is frozen over and bridges to the community on the other bank but come spring the bridge disappears and only with a long drive can you get you to the other side… The town is made up of traditional western style buildings and walking the streets brings back memories of series like The Virginian and High Chaparelle. Its the most gorgeous city and not one to spend only a few days in.
Our hotel, the El Dorado is typical with a large bar, simple dining and pool tables at the back. There is also the Downtown and for eating the best lace in town must be the Drunken Goat whee the food is just perfect.
Its now -20 degrees and in a few months the river will flow again, the paddle steamer will fill with tourists and the hills will be a lush green with hikers and walkers roaming the paths.. I want to come back and see the spectacle of the river breaking and spring taking hold but know I won’t have time this year. Perhaps next.
Now my mind is back on the Yukon Quest and getting our images out for the organisation and the videos made to help promote the race. A race that is now well and truly in my blood.
Well, here I am at 7 am.
Sleep was between 3 and 5am and now I am trying to force my body into action each time a musher approaches.. Not easy, I can assure you.
Its relatively quiet in the press room with only a handful whereas last night it was heaving with press, cameramen, radio people as well as tourists who have come to watch..
The quest seeps into my blood more each day. Having run endurance I understand their need to complete this. Their thirst for finishing, thirst for winning and their desire to push themselves to the limits of human endurance. The hardest part is the mental. They will be feeling exhausted and elated at the same time. Physically drained yet energised with the power of their achievement. Their minds will be playing games. “Why?” “What for?” “Never again” and usually only minutes after finishing in Whitehorse they will be talking of their next race….. But what makes these guys special is that they also need to care for their team . 12-14 dogs that need feeding, sleep and looking after. This make this event far tougher than met I have witnessed….
We have another week or so on the journey to Whitehorse and who knows who will take the prize. What is clear is that all are winners.
The relatively little known Yukon Quest is one of the most powerful events I have witnessed.
I am here in the Yukon, Dawson City to be precise, and have travelled from Kuwait to London then Fairbanks to get here… Our (photography team) remit? to cover the Yukon Quest providing top notch images and GoPro video of the competitors……
I have been sucked in to this race already and cannot believe the performance of the mushers.. Tough, focussed, and basically the hardest human beings I have met.
They set off from Fairbanks on a 1000 mile quest to reach Whitehorse sledding with their teams throughout the beautiful but hostile wilderness of the Alaskan and Yukon Arctic. There are checkpoints and food along the way but many of them elect to sleep out, care for their dogs and keep moving rather than succumb to the warmth of a cabin for a few hours… With temperatures usually below -20c and often to -40c or colder this is an unbelievable race to witness.
I am now in Dawson City the half way point and where the teams must break for 36 hours before the final leg to Whitehorse. We are currently GoProing up the city, the start line and anything that moves.. Our first production can be seen on the previous post so check that awesome piece of work edited by Tom Barber…. Images above…. and on my Facebook and the Yukon Quest Facebook….
I got back from Morocco in the nick of time, or so I was told. In fact it never even entered my head.
The recent flight ban due to volcanic ash stopped flights all over Europe. In theory this could happen worldwide one day if a few volcanoes decide to erupt simultaneously. I thought about it a bit when I tried to book the Eurotunel for my trip home but found no change, no hassle and just a little more traffic at the terminal but on the roads there was far less. Obviously passing Gatwick I would expect to see heavy traffic even early in the morning but there was none.
A few days later I thought more and more about the lack of flights. The so called problems it had caused. But all I had from friends and colleagues were exciting stories. One had taken days to get back from Oslo. Another an eternity from Japan! Someone had spent thousands on a taxi from Germany but all stories were happy ones. They could not wait to share their stories. Stories of real journeys or expeditions. The type of journeys we miss because we fly. Then I thought about why we fly? For me, door to door Woking to Pairs is half an hour longer by car. I don’t have to check in. I don’t have to sit next to someone that smells or that has awful breath. I can listen to my music and make my calls in peace. I also do not have to take my bloody shoes, belt and braces off each time I go through customs. Admittedly for long haul I might choose to fly but then I started thinking about that too.
Holidays would be s much more pleasurable. Would it really hinder me to not be able to fly on holiday? I could still go all over Europe, to the Stans in Asia, in fact many places that I have never been before. The Caribbean might be a bit tough but so what? I have only been once and am not hankering to return…. I thought about possible journeys to Morocco. A few days driving, camping and nice hotel on the way in Spain. We would see and experience so much more. Then we would have the freedom of our car in Morocco. When it was time to come home it would just be part of the journey and we would continue to expeirence the land we covered and people we meet. So much more enriching than airports and crap food and the depression of returning home.
I suppose business was affected hence the histeria in the news. Commerce which our world relies on so heavily was damaged. But then, was it really? Would it be without flying? I am not so sure. We would adapt, our farming practices would become more healthy, we would go back to eating seasonal fruits and probably suffer less from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Market stalls would flourish and supermarkets would vanish….. Corner shops would pop up. There would be fewer conglomerates and more local wealth. Travel would be exciting and more enriching. Our lives would overall be healthier and probably morally stronger too. We could still travel. Humans have travelled successfully for centuries without flying. And in fact most humans don’t travel much but stay put and perhaps go on one or two holidays a year.
So! Would I miss flights? Not in the slightest. It would for me make the world a more exciting place. And most definitely a more healthy one. Other forms of transport would flourish and travel would continue. Our creativity would return in our efforts to explore and invent clean transport. Travel if we really wanted to. And those who didn’t would not have the dilemma of weather to spend thousands on a sunny holiday in a dirty resort or go explore the lakes, coastline or cities close to home……
Flying did allow me to get the above shots though! Got to work now………
It was great to be back in a studio yesterday even if only for 15 mins with a crazy bunch! A few Christmas shoots coming, I think….
Well, I have just completed another EyeforLife and it was a great pleasure to meet so many new photographers… Also the workshop at the Kuwait Journalist Association was brilliant too.
View the images on Facebook and checkout our new vid with some info on me!
RT @markgillett538: RT @Aymstrong: Eye For Life Video about Mark Gillett (@markgillett538) is uploaded. Check it out
This is a quote from a student I recently wrote to complimenting his photography. I did not send him the email looking for this reply, I sent it because I noticed. I noticed how good this young man was becoming as a photographer. I wrote it because I thought he should know. Read the rest of this entry »
Working with people as I have for 30 year, I have learnt to recognise many factors in the way people perform. I have had arguments with parents about their children when they believe that their talent will get them through, I have seen some highly skilled individuals rely on their attributes and receive praise only to end up failing and not understanding why. And I have seen child prodigies who, by the time they reach 18, are no different from their peers.
I have, however, Read the rest of this entry »