Clear skies, calm seas and Icelandic adventures

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‘Here’s to clear skies, calm seas and Icelandic adventures’, were the words written in a card sent to me by a friend I know only through the internet, following the intense episode of saying both hello and goodbye to our baby Evan. For Iceland was one of the big bees in the hive of ideas we installed last autumn in place for 2014. A five-day shoot, or road-trip, or what we even called with drama, ‘Miss Aniela Adventure in the craziest locations on the planet’. Matthew, always having been enamoured with the geometric and geothermal fascination of the Arctic outdoors, decided to track down a company to help us make our first outdoor fashion venture possible. Not having seen anyone do this before, we were naturally a little hesitant, but our desire for adventure seems to always dominate our direction, and before long we had a plan in place with a reputable tour company that could take care of route, transport, accommodation and food for a whole feisty gang of us.

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Thanks to our growing client base who always seem hungry for more, it sold out quickly and deliriously, and before long, the dates were here. We’d only just come off a stint of creativeLIVE in Seattle before it was time to pack bobble hats, teabags and several pairs of loud leggings, along with the camera gear, lights, oh and a stylist with many garments, 3 of the models, and our favourite assistant, Tall Tim. All of us journeyed in a pack together from Heathrow arriving at Keflavik with snowflakes thrust into our faces as we pulled our mountain of excess baggage into the first night of our stay.

The week was tough. No doubt about that, I joked that I’d never seen Matt so intent in the 8 years I’ve known him. But we pushed our limits literally to see how far we could stretch them. For 5 days straight, we wrestled with mischievous Icelandic weather that went from hail to rain to sun to blizzard… debating when to unleash our 4 hardy models from our monster truck into the wrath of the four seasons coinciding in one gust. They did awesomely. We’d handpicked the most solid posers we knew, which included one Icelandic model Hulda with whom we’d Skyped to ensure her enthusiasm; Elena Sirina whom we’d previously seen work like an irrepressible sexy Duracell bunny, Jen Brook whom we’d never met before but through the wonders of the internet just knew she’d pull it off, and Grace Gray, another feckless and reckless ‘go get ‘em’ type with the bonus of long red locks – she also did hair and make-up on everyone, like a mother making meals for all her children before finally feeding herself. And she was pretty bloody good for the super pressured context if I may say so.

We were up on cliff tops, down at waterfalls, in a lava field, by geysers, sea caves (by a not so calm sea – the most violent tide I’ve ever seen), an ice lagoon, the crashed US Navy plane on the black sands, a snowfilled cave and more – cramming in 11 locations over 5 days, not bad considering we got rained on at times where we had to admit defeat and leave the models happy in the truck with a box of Lindt Lindor chocolates whilst we tested just how waterproof our camera bodies really were (cheeky note, as I’m sponsored by them: but robust Nikons are built for these conditions). We’d all dine happily together each night and get out the alcohol cleverly bought from Duty Free on the way in (Iceland alcohol prices are eye-bulging) and prep for the next day of driving to yet another location to fawn over through the lens. There were people amongst us from all over the world of different professions: from a dentist from the Isle of Wight, to a Kuwaiti policeman, all with varying amounts of fashion photography experience. 

The highlight for most of us was the central day: the peak of the week, a day of peaceful weather and beautiful sun spent on a private ice lagoon where we were able to designate all of the models into a separate spot to maximise the independent direction of the photographers in each group. The classic, iconic Icelandic eye porn: the glacier, available for us all afternoon till we wrapped in happiness and glee making many silly videos and group shots up on the hill before we drove off with minds filled, ready to have our bellies filled. One of our Viking truck drivers, Birgir, if plied with enough persuasion after dinner, would burst into spontaneous opera song. A few of us also lucked out to see the northern lights.

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I didn’t know what to expect from this trip in terms of images, so I went with the flow of just trying to capture Iceland’s surreal scenery as best I could around the model. I loved how effortlessly the styled model slipped into the tantalising textures and atmosphere of the locations; I felt none of that particular struggle of indoor venues. Stylist Minna Attala put together a series of looks including designs by Joanne Fleming, Queen of the Wild and assorted theatrical pieces and accessories. I loved how game the models were considering the extreme circumstances, I loved that even when shooting ‘paparazzi’ with a bunch of other photographers (not our chosen way to work, but logistically essential for this trip), there was still such licence to make the images your own through angle, timing, selection, editing and presentation. I have just had a set of mine published in Reykjavik Boulevard. 

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In pushing ourselves to the extent that we did, we learnt what is possible and how we can continue to make more adventures in Iceland in which we satisfy a whole new group of willing ‘extreme fashion’ guests, applying everything we learnt from our experience to our next one lined up for November 2014. We want to see more of Iceland, and visit at different times of the year to see the long sunsets and ice caves, and shoot models with it all. So we came home and bought the domain name “www.icelandfashionshoot.com” ready for some more… in addition to approx 6 other countries scrawled on our whiteboard. Life goes by quick.

Some more images below and on my Facebook.

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