Off To The Mountains, Back Soon!

Over the past 18 months I have noticed that it is pretty easy to spend a lot of time behind the computer, either editing or keeping up with emails.  This comes with the job, and I am not complaining about it - I absolutely love being a photographer. But its important to get outside.

I always read about the importance of having a great work-life balance but mine is definitely sporadic.  There are a variety of tips online and recommendations for companies to work for who give the best work-life balance but it is really what works for yourself.  A lunchtime walk, evening run or biking with friends can make all the difference.

This weekend called for a bit more than a run around the city after a long week of working at the computer and drinking far too much tea.  We decided to head up 1,800 metres to stay the night at the Mueller Hut in the Southern Alps, which was far enough away from the emails and editing.

The Mueller Hut is about a 5 hour trek up to the top, including our various photo and snack stops. The walk starts with a nice gravel path then moves onto a few steps, 2,200 to be exact!  I had heard about the steps but nothing prepares you for the sheer number and steepness of them. As I type this two days later, my calves are still contracted.  After doing what felt like a never-ending Stairmaster 2000, we reached Sealy Tarns (the top of the stairs). The rest of the hike involved rock hopping, and a snow filled push to the ridge.  Throughout this hike there are great views, but when we reached the ridge we were greeted with 360 degree views of high peaks and glaciers. Then, 30 minutes more along the ridge, and we were glad to see our accommodation for the night. Although peaceful, every now and then you would hear a crack and rumble from ice falls on the glaciers.

Of course I am typing this while back in front of my computer with tea but shifting through the images reminds me to get my ass back outdoors.  

With GodZone

The first time I heard about GodZone was back in 2016. While staying at a friend’s house, I noticed his wife was constantly at their computer looking at a map.  She explained to me that the map had markers which were moving to indicate the location of teams participating in an adventure race.  The teams were required to kayak, run, hike and cycle a distance which spanned 530km in total, and lasted for up to 7 days.  I was intrigued, and knew instantly that this was definitely something which I wanted to document.

For the 2017 event, I landed a spot on the media team and was excited to follow these crazy teams as they negotiated their way around the Queenstown course.  I didn't imagine this would be an easy shoot, and this was confirmed on the first day.  An awesome spot caught my eye, where I would be able to capture the teams and give a sense of scale in the landscape.  However, the problem was, this awesome spot was in a river.  I rolled up my shorts, and waded across the water, getting into position just in time to catch the first team go by.  The shot looked great, and I decided to wait for a few more to come through.  After waiting for about 30 minutes I heard teams coming, and got my camera ready, sadly only to realise that they had gone a different route to avoid the river crossing - they were on a trail up on the left behind trees!  This is probably the worst part about shooting adventure racing, not knowing where teams will be coming from. But this is also the best part, as teams don't all go the same way, and you can end up with a good variety of images. 

After running around for the first few days I was able to hop on a helicopter into the Queenstown backcountry in search of teams.  I have shot from motorbikes, cars, bicycles and boats but never while flying.  This proved to be quite difficult with the airflow and trying to coordinate leaning out while being strapped in with a lap belt and lanyard.  Thankfully there were plenty of teams dotted around which gave me a few opportunities to shoot while I cautiously learnt how to lean out of the chopper and shoot from above.

Peninsula Fog - With Jake Paddon

Throughout the afternoon, an eerie fog began creeping in over the hills of the Otago Peninsula, arriving at the same time that as I was hoping to get some moody road biking shots.  A quick call to Jake, and we were heading into the fog 20 minutes later.  

The roads out here are smooth and surrounded by some stunning scenery, although this was slightly altered with the fog continually rolling in.

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With Harley-Davidson

Last week I took on a five day job for Harley-Davidson Australia documenting the Iron Run event.  It started with a two day media ride that left Dunedin and headed down to Invercargill, up to Manapouri and then up and over to Queenstown.  

Once in Queenstown, there were various rides that took place including the main event on the Saturday.  This group ride was impressive with over a thousand riders who then all took over Arrowtown with their bikes lining either side of the street.  Here are a few select favourites from the week.

Next time I will consider wearing ear defenders.

The First Year: No Ferrari Or Mansion, But Getting There

December 2015 was the time that I decided I would fully commit to photography and let it be my sole source of income.  I wasn't too sure where to start but the ball began rolling for me when I was on my initial travels around New Zealand.  

While in Rotorua riding I got chatting to Kashi Leuchs, a bike shop owner from Dunedin who had some demo Yetis.  He mentioned that he was running the 3 Peaks Enduro mountain bike race in Dunedin and said it was worth coming down to.  He gave me his details, and I later emailed him about coming down and he offered to pay for an album of photos from his race.  I jumped at the chance.  

Shot for 3 Peaks Enduro 2015

Shot for 3 Peaks Enduro 2015

After arriving in Dunedin it was suggested that I reach out to the local tourism to do an article on the bike race. As I was new to the area and didn't have any contacts, this meant just walking into the tourist visitor centre and asking to speak to someone from marketing.  This worked out well, as, not only did they want me to do an article on the bike race, but they also asked me to do additional articles for them.  After working with the local tourism, I was put in touch with the New Zealand Masters Games and ended up shooting their event. This introduced me to working with a local media company, and then also working with the city council events department.  

All of that work came because I chatted to Kashi in Rotorua, there was no big meeting or fancy way of doing it, all I did was introduce myself.

Phil Atwill for Propain Bikes

Phil Atwill for Propain Bikes

Now I never thought this would be a walk in the park but this is what I want to do for a living, create great imagery for people.  I was determined that this would happen and when I first arrived in Dunedin, I worked on the enduro race and articles while living in my truck in a beach car park (not as pretty as you might think with people unaware of how to use a bin or toilet).  The truck became the transport, office, bedroom and kitchen but I was getting somewhere.

Our 41 square foot house on wheels

Our 41 square foot house on wheels

Otago Rally shot for a driver

Otago Rally shot for a driver

One of my concerns jumping into this was how to work out my pricing.  I have listened to podcasts, read blogs and discussed this topic numerous times with peers and you still never really find a price.  For me, I don't have a particular day rate and want to work within potential clients budgets where possible.  Of course, it is always ok to say no to a job if its not feasible.   

One potential client said they didn't have a photo budget but could pay x amount.  It was under what I would normally charge for the work but instead of saying no, I gave them the offer of shooting a lesser amount of imagery, and we agreed companies at this event could purchase images also.  On top of the clients charge, I also had images purchased from another company, giving me more than double.  There are sometimes ways to work with people without feeling you are underselling yourself or undercutting others in the industry, and this in turn can work in your favour.  But again, its ok to walk away.

Jib Jam shot for Red Bull New Zealand 

Jib Jam shot for Red Bull New Zealand 

Rainbow Mountain for TNZ

Rainbow Mountain for TNZ

For me, this is still a slow process and has a huge learning curve. A year later, I find that my approach to getting work has improved.  The business side has been trial and error and I have quickly picked up what works, and what doesn't.  Someone told me "It is more important to farm than to hunt".  I like this because I can find myself constantly trying to get a specific job when it is beneficial to just get your name out, introduce yourself to people or brands you want to work with. This in turn hopefully means you are thought of should they need a photographer.

For Mons Royale printed at Skyline, Queenstown

For Mons Royale printed at Skyline, Queenstown

It has now just been over a year since I started and I have shot the 3 Peaks Enduro for the second year.  This next year will be challenging as I only have 6 months left in New Zealand before heading back to Scotland with the business, which makes me pretty nervous but also excited.  

Footnote:

One thing that I would recommend everyone does is check their email before sending it.  I recently noticed while checking for a sent email that the wording was slightly off, thankfully someone i have worked with in the past and have a good working relationship with.  Not sure why the computer decided to autocorrect but it did and I should have checked, you can spot it.

Always check

Always check

Shells

Two weeks ago I was back in Maui, Hawaii and keen to see and swim with the sea turtles.  At one beach they swim ashore to rest and this is a perfect place to document them.  It isn't the easiest to move around with volunteers roping off the area so people don't start trying to take selfies and touch the turtles.  Despite this it I could still get close enough to capture the wonderful textures they have.

Keep up to date on Instagram and Snapchat - @johny.cook 

 

Crankworx #5

The final event of Crankworx was the downhill which brought crowds of spectators from the top of the course to the bottom.  With a pond to negotiate, rock gardens, gaps and bridges the course caused for some loose riding.  During practice Phil Atwill hooked up his front wheel and went over the bars and down the hill.  We asked if he was all good and his response was "Yeah, I think so" as he grabbed his bike and carried on.

Follow along on Instagram @johny.cook

*Get in touch for usage of the images - johny@johnycook.com


Crankworx #4

Having only ever seen slopestyle on TV I was pretty impressed with the size of the jumps and tricks that were thrown down.  The event brought many hecklers and fans to the side of the course and were entertained by some of the worlds best style.

Before the event started there was a train for Kelly McGarry where riders were able to hit the slopestyle course one after the other.  Everyone watching was silent and it was just the tyres rolling that could be heard as some did tricks and others just boosted the jumps in his memory. 

*Get in touch for usage of any of the images - johny@johnycook.com

Sam Pilgrim going big for Kelly 

Sam Pilgrim going big for Kelly 


Crankworx #3

A humid start to the day with some whips added in for Air Downhill.  After shouting for riders to get sideways most were more than happy to send it big for the camera.  Today was all about the Air DH and Pump Track, with riders getting wild and loose in both events and putting a show on for the hecklers.

*For usage of any images get in touch - johny@johnycook.com


Crankworx #2

Today was a good day for watching the riders nail berms and come out faster than when they entered.  The Mons Royale Dual Speed and Style took off with a few riders going down hard.  

Combining speed and tricks throughout their run there was a good mix of riders from various backgrounds putting in pedals where they could, backflips, tail whips and big 360s.

*Get in touch for any usage of the images - johny@johnycook.com 


Crankworx #1

After shooting Trans NZ last week I caught a flight up to the north island and headed over to Rotorua for Crankworx.  The events for today were Giant Toa Enduro and then the famous whip off competition in the evening.

The enduro was mostly held in the Whakarewarewa Forest and ending back at Skyline for the final stage with riders feeling the burn of the pedals but still getting stylish on track.

The end to the day was at the whip off with a few crashes and straight airs before the guys and girls were getting sideways and some.  

*Get in touch for any usage of the images - johny@johnycook.com 


Short South Road Trip

Since moving out of the truck and into a house we decided we needed to get back on the road for a short stint.  We had missed a few things the first time we had done a loop of New Zealand so it became the perfect opportunity to get back out.

We started in Dunedin and made our way north up the east coast, across to the west coast via Arthur's Pass and make our way up north to Punakakai.  Driving all the way back down the west coast we aimed for Wanaka, Mt Cook then Lake Tekapo putting us back onto the east coast and back down to Dunedin.


Three Peaks Enduro

I found out about the Three Peaks Enduro after meeting Kashi (from Bike Otago) while riding in Rotorua.  I was sold on coming down to Dunedin to see what was so good about this city and of course to shoot the race.

The race was held over two days with various stages including a section with some pretty steep steps.  Through the weekend the weather held off for the most part with a few of us getting caught in the rain and hail.  

This was a pretty exciting race to shoot for my first in New Zealand with the riders getting loose and wild.  At one point I almost got in the way of Jimmy Pollard (4th picture down) who had chosen a line I was standing on which to be honest I thought wasn't really possible.

http://www.bikeotago.co.nz/

http://www.insidersdunedin.co.nz/active-insider/2015/12/1/downhill-chainsaws-solid-runs

Northwards

Once off the ferry we wanted to head straight for Taranaki and capture the lonely mountain.  Our plan was slightly diverted when we realised someone had tried to steal our bikes, resulting in a special part having to be ordered in for Kirsty's bike.  We stayed in Lower Hutt and while waiting for the bike part, I was able to get some riding done.

Typically the weather followed us all the way to Taranaki and the view we wanted of Mount Taranaki was blocked by clouds and heavy rain on arrival.  Regardless of the weather we still visited the spectacular Dawson Falls.

Having given up on the weather we made our way to Waitomo for the famous glow worm caves.  Unfortunately, no photos are allowed throughout the caves but the glow worms were spectacular. It is a must do if you are in the area.  We were guided through the dark cave along to a small boat which was manoeuvred via the guide pulling a series of ropes.  It was fascinating seeing the water lit up by the reflection of the worms and gave a feel of star gazing.

Bridal Veil Falls was next and the weather finally subsided for us.  The falls are 55 metres high and drop magnificently into an epic scene.

A quick stop to view the Raglan beaches and they didn't disappoint.

We made our way over to Rotorua and were told to stop by the naturally heated hot water of Kerosene Creek.  As you walk through the short trail to the 2 metre waterfall it feels like a resort you should be paying for but instead a free place to relax and enjoy, nestled in the bush. 

When we picked up the part for Kirsty's bike I was asked if I knew a guy from Inverness called Mike, who turned out to be a guy I rode the local trails with back home.  Mike took us for a tour of the Wakawerera forest trails - mountain bike heaven!

A swim and jump into the Blue Lake was welcomed after a couple of days riding in the New Zealand heat.

The Redwoods were great to ride through but hiking gave us a neat perspective of the scale of the trees.

Rotorua, another place to add to our huge list of places to revisit.  Now we move towards the north and far north.

http://www.britz.co.nz

Keep up to date with adventure on Instagram @johny.cook

The West

The West of the South Island was spectacular although the sand flies certainly made themselves known on our bodies.  We made our way towards Haast, stopping at a few waterfalls and every other lay by!

The next morning we made our way towards Glacier Country.  We drove past beaches and through hundreds of kilometres of rainforest, which didn't feel like it could be the home of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.

Our first walk was to the Fox Glacier which sits at 13km long.  As we walked along, we could only see the tip and didn't really see the full size of it until we were at the viewing point.  However, the only way to truly appreciate the vastness of these glaciers is from above.  We chose to do a heli hike on the Franz Josef glacier, and after 4 minutes in the helicopter we were hiking on top of it. Since 2008 it has unfortunately been in a state of rapid retreat due to climate change. 

Our journey continued on through Arthurs Pass, a narrow but scenic road which we sadly hit during bad weather.

We spent a couple of days making our way towards Abel Tasman National Park. 

When we arrived at Abel Tasman we were greeted with golden beaches and crystal clear water.  Having no real experience kayaking we hired a dual sea kayak and, paddling out of sync, we explored the coastline.  One small beach caught our eye which had a rock and a single tree growing - it was a "picture perfect" spot.

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Our drive to Picton to catch the ferry took us by vineyards, forests, bays and the Marlborough Sounds.  With very little light pollution the sky was lit up by stars and our final camp spot on the South Island gave us a great view of the milky way.

http://www.britz.co.nz

Keep up to date via Instagram - @johny.cook 

Waking up in Wanaka

From Queenstown we headed north for Lake Wanaka.  When we were talking about this trip to people, Lake Wanaka was highly recommended and when we pulled onto the waterfront we could see why.  We arrived to a view of a beach lined with huge trees, a clear blue lake and snow capped mountains in the distance.

Of course it seems nobody goes to Lake Wanaka without visiting the world famous tree that sits by itself in the lake.  A wonderful touch to the landscape, especially at sunset.

We camped for the night just south of the Treble Cone (2,058 metres high) and were once again captivated by the clear views of the milky way.  Despite the wind and the choir of birds throughout the night, we awoke to a stunning sunrise.

Since we had picked up a bike for Kirsty in Queenstown, we were keen to get onto the local trails. We chatted to Tom (who funnily enough lived about 20 minutes out of town from where we stayed in Scotland) and he pointed us in the direction of Sticky Forest.  It was a great first taste of mountain biking in New Zealand.

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After spending most of our time riding the trails we headed for the West Coast and stopped by Lake Háwea and the Blue Pools.  Lake Háwaea had some of the clearest water I have ever seen, it was difficult to spot the difference between the rocks in the water and those on the the beach. 

We would have loved to have more time in Lake Wanaka but unfortunately were unable to at this time.  Once our road trip is over we hope to get straight back down and explore more of the region.

http://www.britz.co.nz 

Keep up to date with our trip via Instagram - @johny.cook 

Hooker Valley and Aoraki/Mount Cook

While eating dinner at Lake Wanaka on Thursday night we decided to make a mad dash over to Mount Cook and do the Lake Hooker hike.  On our drive over we were lucky enough to spot a glow in the rearview mirror which turned out to be the southern lights.

Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain sitting at 3,724 metres.  Despite being that height the hike along to glacier lake was easy and gave access to spectacular views of the mountain.

Because we ended up driving at night we missed the lovely colour of Lake Pukaki but thankfully caught a glimpse on our drive back.

http://www.britz.co.nz/

Follow our journey on Instagram - @johny.cook

New Zealand: Start of the Journey

Back in January, Kirsty and I decided that we should leave Scotland for a while and check out another country.  Our choice was New Zealand and exploring it in a camper van was our idea.  We managed to team up with Britz Campervans for a month journey from Queenstown on the South Island ending in Auckland in the North Island.  We picked up our home on wheels for the next month in Queenstown and made our way over to Milford Sound.

We woke up in Milford Sound to a cold, foggy and stunning scene.  A view we have seen numerous times while researching the area however nothing compares to seeing it firsthand.

This fiord has been high on our list for checking out and it never let us down.  You are greeted by huge mountains specifically Mitre Peak sitting at 1,692 metres, stunning however standing on the shore only gives you a glimpse of the vast landscape.  A $100 later and we were out on a boat floating in the shadows of the mass surroundings. 

We headed back over to Queenstown along some picturesque roads to stay at Moke Lake.  The journey was a long one but because we drove it in the dark before we were seeing a totally different scene.

We finally made it through Queenstown in the evening to some stormy weather which made our drive along the farm road to Moke Lake dark, windy and wet. 

We woke up to a hot morning surrounded by mountains which we didn't manage to take in on our wild drive up the farm road.  Breakfast outside prepared us for an 18km ride but not so much the sun burn.

The ride earned us a trip to Fergburger which didn't disappoint.  Next stop is Lake Wanaka for wine tasting and trail riding. 

http://www.britz.co.nz 

Follow more on Instagram @Johny.Cook

Scenic: The Old Man of Storr

Nipper and I wanted to get one more munro ridden before I head off but instead decided to bike around the very scenic Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye.  The view is well known with the huge pinnacle of rock sitting at 165ft overlooking the Sound of Raasay. 

We learnt pretty quickly that everything there seems steeper than it looks but the riding was great as you can just pick a line anywhere and head off, just need to watch out for visitors and some hidden holes.  

Endurance: Mark Beaumont and the North Coast 500

A lot of people will know Mark Beaumont for his epic round the world bike ride of 18,000 miles in which he broke the world record by 82 days back in 2008.  Riding his bike for long periods of time is obviously something Mark does extremely well and his latest challenge lay on the North Coast 500.  This route is Scotland's answer to Route 66 starting and is a 500 mile journey which takes you through beautiful areas of Scotland.  Mark's plan was to cycle non stop the route in under 40 hours leaving Inverness at 0600 on Monday morning.  

Heading out the Beauly road after leaving from Inverness Castle at 0600

Heading out the Beauly road after leaving from Inverness Castle at 0600

Cycling over 500 miles yourself must get quite lonely and it was great seeing different people grab their bikes and cycle with Mark.  Various riders showed up along the route, from his friend Alex Glasgow, local cycle club riders, people inspired by his rides and those who were encouraged to join in by the crowd.

A support vehicle, drone team and motorbike followed throughout the trip 

A support vehicle, drone team and motorbike followed throughout the trip 

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The Bealach na Bà on the Applecross peninsula would seem challenging but once he had reached the top of the windy roads he was chatting easily to his friend Alex Glasgow (currently holds the record on the Bealach Mor and previously won the Celtman).

Tom Campbell supporting on the motorbike

Tom Campbell supporting on the motorbike

Alex left Mark at Kinlochewe, great to see the support from him and the crowd

Alex left Mark at Kinlochewe, great to see the support from him and the crowd

The good weather didn't last all day and Mark powered on through the rain.  Being on the West of Scotland we were all greeted by waves of midges and no wind to blow them away.

With his ride being non stop, Mark rode though the night and the weather didn't hold off.  Dark, wet and windy he powered through making it look easy.  I stopped in a lay by just after Inchnadamph, and while asleep in the back of my car he had made it up to Tongue by the time I caught up with him in the morning.

A 0400 start for me to play catch up

A 0400 start for me to play catch up

Catching up with him he was still all smiles and at a good pace

Catching up with him he was still all smiles and at a good pace

A quick change and back on the road full pedal

A quick change and back on the road full pedal

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This was a historic spot for Mark to get to.  When he was 15 years old he did a solo ride from Lands End to John O' Groats.  Thankfully the sun came out and stayed with us until the finish.

More support, this time from Mark Canning 

More support, this time from Mark Canning 

Arriving in Wick was a great milestone of the journey and thankfully the crew were met by the staff from the North Coast 500 with bacon rolls.

More support in Wick

More support in Wick

A team stop for a change before getting back on the road

A team stop for a change before getting back on the road

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After meeting a couple of fans on a bridge over the A9 I headed straight to Inchmore to catch Mark during his last few miles.  It was amazing to see him still pushing hard with smile on his face.

After reading about Mark and hearing all about his adventures around the world it was brilliant to see him actually doing one.  It was great getting the opportunity to follow this journey and see first hand the endurance that he has.  His time was 37 hours and 58 minutes and at the finish looked and sounded as if he could go for another ride.

http://markbeaumontonline.com

http://www.northcoast500.com