My job is always a pleasure. No, really. Honestly. Even, when I'm standing at the finish line, dripping wet, cold, hungry, camera's broken I may for a second think my job sucks, but actually... Actually it's okay. The pay may not be anything to shout home about, I'd probably earn more if I worked at McDonalds if I'm honest. Though why would I?
Don't get me wrong, this is no hobby. Its a business, my business. I make enough to pay the bills, to pay the insurance, to make sure my public liability is up to date. to make sure I can live. After all I doubt I can rock up to Sainsbury's any day soon and ask them for free food for a mention & a credit on my website now can I!!
Life is more about experiences than money though and in that respect I certainly get my monies worth of experiences!
The job comes with many ups and downs, many twists and turns, lots of uncertainties but plenty of chances to stretch the creative muscle so to speak. It's never easy. Never consistent, no two days are ever the same. You never get complacent. It's certainly not for the feint of heart, or for those that thrive on regular hours or any type of security. It's wild out there. But you are always rewarded one way or another.
One such job that delivered so much more than I could have ever expected came when I was offered the chance to shoot some images at the Bluegrass Enduro series, which kicked off in Scotland.
I headed to one of my favourite places, Glencoe. I've not been for a while. The road aspect of my job has taken me in the opposite direction to the crazy guys and girls that throw themselves down massive mountains in wild abandon. I miss it. I miss the ditches, the characters, I even miss the mud and the slim chance of exposure on those mountains!!
It's a 6 hour drive for me to this enchanted land of magical, majestic mountains, glens, lochs and bothies. I drove with heightened anticipation. The A82 races away from Tyndrum, seemingly the last vestiges of civilization and into the bleakness and raw beauty that only Rannoch Moor can provide. It's breathtaking. I never tire of the vista that stretches before me. The road traverses this ancient land and draws you ever closer to the mountains. You can feel the space, breathe the air, it's fully charged, electric, energising.
Soon the imposing mountains of Buachaille Etive Mor and the Three sisters, loom either side ushering you into the Glen. Its truly mesmerising, especially on a cloud free day.
I had time to kill. I decide to explore. Be a bit of a tourist. Normally my journey takes me out to Fort William and beyond. I never stop here. I decided to head down Glen Etive. Setting for a film or two the most recent being Skyfall. Nope I didn't see James Bond anywhere...
It was a dead end that took my eye, I didn't know till after I drove the length it's importance to the film buff. I've never noticed the road before. A singletrack ribbon that threads its way merrily down parallel to the fast flowing river to a disused pier at the Loch head. I soaked in the day. It's rare to be privileged to see the Highlands on such a stunning day without being bombarded with the dreaded midges.
The forecast for the next day was less enticing. Heavy rain was expected, turning to snow on high grounds. exactly where I was heading.
My job for the weekend was to capture the atmosphere and action of the first round of the Bluegrass Enduro Series. Set at the Glencoe mountain resort this enduro series is unusual in the fact that riders race 'blind' ie they have no idea where the course will take them, they can't pre ride to check the lines, they just turn and and ride, making sure they aim themselves and their bikes between the loosely marked course flags! Makes for some interesting line choices as it turned out!
I was also 'racing' blind. It's been a while since I headed to the hills and the format of Enduro racing means the riders cover vast tracks of land. Where do you go? How do you get there? Sometimes riding a bike can help but not in this case! The first rounds took place just a gentle chair ride away oh and a few pushes... For me it was a walk into the wildside, the view was breathtaking I could see for miles the landscape dotted with munro's iced with snow peaking over 4,000ft including Ben Nevis. The riders looked ant like in comparison to the mighty mountains. Placing them in the landscape was a challenge... Luckily the forecast turned out wrong. Torrential rain transformed itself into stunning blue skies offering vistas I can honestly say I have never encountered before, the clarity was outstanding.
The next stage took the riders slightly higher, racing through deeper sections of snow made for some fun packed moments. I headed down, with Rannoch Moor my background, capturing the riders as they tackled the technical downhill tracks on the lower slopes.
Finally is was time to head higher. Into the snow zone. Part 3 was to be a mini Mac Avalanche. Riders would be hurtling down the snow packed slopes en mass... First I had to get there... Another chair lift, aptly named the Cliffhanger took me and the riders higher. While they waited for everyone to get to base camp I headed off to choose my vantage point.
I'm not keen on snow. I like it. Just not keen to be walking up a steep slope, carrying expensive kit, in snow that on times could be knee deep.. It certainly was an adventure. On I trudged, until finally I couldn't, wouldn't go further. I'd reached my limit. Luckily my vantage point was pretty breathtaking... Did I mention I'm not keen on snow, or heights actually...
The race got underway, riders charging down the snow, slip, sliding and occasionally riding... It was an impressive sight.. It was over in a flash. Time to get to the finish. Easier said than done, just me and a ton of snow on a steep slope... Fun...
Did I ever mention the fact....
I finally got to Cliffhanger, relief flushed on my face to have survived the descent. Disaster the chairlift was no longer running and the only way down was more steep snow... Oh joy... More slip, sliding, with me actually wishing, that maybe just maybe I should have entered the darn thing and ridden it! I'd have finished by now, tucked up in a warm cafe, sipping a hot chocolate, enthusing about the race, but no here I am pretending I can ski, with boots on, no skis, with don't forget expensive kit precariously balanced about my person... It wasn't raining so bonus points I guess plus there were no midges... Eventually I made it down in one piece, intact with not so much of a little sit down, other than the final trip on the chairlift. Then it was off to the podium to shoot the winners being awarded with trees... yes trees... Then it was back to the digs to relive the whole day again via the images... That's gotta be a pleasure... who mentioned any pain?