Being an ambassador with ashmei has had its perks for the past couple of years, mostly getting to wear some pretty sweet kit. I get the occasional sneak peak and get to give some input on new ranges, but the peak definitely came earlier this month…
Just checking in to see if you’d be up for a little Scottish cycling/running modelling?”
Yes I would, Gary, yes I would!
The ashmei team were shooting their autumn/winter campaign up in Scotland and wanted me to do my thing in front of the camera…awesome! Let me share my vision of how it would go – first class travel, luxury hotels, hair and make up, the launch of a new modelling career.
Now let me now share the reality with you. Trying to make the trip work around work – as it were – I headed straight from my physio clinic in London to Gatwick Airport and 45 minutes later landed in Inverness. At this point it was close to midnight and still another hour or so to our Air BnB. So, not quite the luxury I had dreamt of. The late arrival was further deglamourised with a 4am alarm I had to set. I was in the company of two fellow ambassadors up there, GB triathlete Libs Matthews (doing running with me) as well as cycling don Neil Nash-Williams – sticking solely to the two-wheeled stuff. In the morning we bundled ourselves into Lara the trusty ashmei Land Rover to head to location…in the dark. This seemed wholly inappropriate for taking pictures. Even when the light came, the whole valley was clouded over. Re-assured by Neil that it would definitely clear soon, we all hunkered down, trying to steal a couple more winks.
When the cloud lifted, it immediately became apparent why we’d gone to all this trouble of traveling to the Applecross Peninsula. It was nothing short of stunning up there. Stunning…but cold. The sun had barely risen before it was joined by a light drizzly rain, which was soon accompanied with a howling gale. It blew so hard down the valley that I thought my Lite Jacket might turn into a sail and take me out to sea. However, with the sun up and breaking through the cloud, we jumped out and did our thing. The other pair shot some bike pieces while I slid back inside the van again. Before long, Libs and I were called to do some running set ups. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but hoped that we would be able to get out on the road and do a ride while Simon (the photographer) and the guys moved around us to capture what they needed. What actually happened was they would set up in position to get a shot and we would either ride or run the same 5-10 metre stretch repeatedly until we were told to stop. Fun right?
The shoot revolved around going somewhere stunning, parking up, throwing on an outfit and waiting for a break in the weather – ready to either run or ride at a moments notice. In truth, we were a little at the mercy of the conditions. As quickly as things had cleared in the morning, they could cloud over and hammer us with rain. To an extent that was the point, it being autumn/winter theme and all. But nothing and no-one looks great soaked through, so we spent a lot of time hiding in the Landy or Simon’s VW van waiting for the right moment. Worth saying here that we had borrowed two incredible gravel bikes from a brand local to ashmei, called l’Enfer du Nord. Simply put, I’ve never been on a gravel bike before but my God they are fun!
Over the course of the shoot I discovered one other issue. As good as I think I look when I run and ride (and in my head, I look pretty bloody good), every photo I see – to me – is awful! The guys and girls in promo shots always look so effortless and me running or riding generally looks anything but. As self conscious as that made me, it was nothing compared to sitting in a café next to an open fire pretending I was mid-ride and being shot just on my own. Not least because most of the time the leg closest to the fire felt like it might catch fire.
On the shoot itself, we never got to see how any of the shots were being set up by Stuart and Elliot so the whole time we were there I had no idea if any of the pictures were going to be any good. That was until the final evening, when Simon got his laptop out. The raw images I saw were phenomenal. Nothing to do with me, but the landscape up there was just unbelievable and the kit feels right at home. And not just looks-wise, the layering system we were modelling really did come into its own in the changeable conditions. As did the witchcraft that is Merino wool. I’m still blown away by how warm such a thin layer can be, yet layering it up doesn’t leave you a sweaty mess when the sun comes up or you start working with more intensity.
When the time came to come home it was another 4am start to get back to Inverness airport to catch a flight in time to get back to work for 9am (ambitious and ultimately impossible!). The rest of the week was a bit of a write off after the long days away but from an experience point of view and from what I’ve seen of the images, well worth it. I just hope I look good enough to get invited back!