I thought of the idea for this project when I was in the Dolomites on a commission shooting a bikepacking story and we’d stopped cycling when a group of Italian ramblers strolled passed, complete with jumpers slung over their shoulders, knee length socks and old leather hiking boots. It made me start thinking about the eclectic style and eccentric characters we have on our UK hills, I thought it would make a nice portrait series so that was the seed that started to grow once back in the UK.
I chose Snowdon because as most folk know there’s many routes up to the top of varying difficulties, there’s also a train service to just below the summit and a cafe on top too. I thought I could get a varied set of people up there. After finally getting permission I just needed to wait until the summer crowds had gone. It was a difficult decision for me to just leave everything to chance - to arrive and see who’s up there on that day and take their portraits.
I had the finished portrait in my head from the start, the backdrop, with the stands visible and a bit of scenery around the edges to tell more of the story, I just needed to work out how to do it and hope there was room for me to setup there somewhere.
My thought process was if I used a backdrop it helps them stand out and almost takes away the context of where they are, I wanted to light it like a ‘proper’ shoot not just for the consistency that it gives but also to make it a bit more disconnected from the environment,
the idea being again that on looking at the portraits you wouldn't know what the weather was doing, how cold it was etc. unless you looked for the clues around the perimeter of the image.
The day started with clear skies but the weather seemed to be closing in and snow was visible on the ridges above. It was definitely colder than forecast and the wind stronger than expected, with significant gusts and there was snow and ice underfoot on the last stages before the summit too.
Setting up was tough going - anyone who's tried to pitch a tent in the wind will know the feeling - material being buffeted around before you've had a chance to peg it down, we were close to the edge to keep out of the way and I had visions of the lot just disappearing off over it. Once weighted and tied down though it thankfully all stayed in place. Every gust of wind was a paralysingly tense moment though.
I sat there on this icy rock with everything set up, when it suddenly dawned on me that I’d have to go and talk to people and ask them for a portrait. How mental to overlook that? I mean of course that’s what I would need to do, I just hated the idea of having to do it and hated being there in the public gaze, it’s what I’ve always tried to avoid as a photographer, but I had no choice. As soon as I saw someone that I wanted to photograph I forgot all that and just started to talk to them, it turns out that having a stupid looking bit of grey cloth blocking the lovely view was a bit of an ice breaker. The main comment from passers-by was why aren't you snapping the view instead of that cloth?