It’s a tricky dilemma, trying to shoot winter gear in August. Especially when one of the garments in question is the Beacon Jacket, a deep winter road cycling jacket for extreme weather. It’s not going to look quite right paired with thermal bib tights and a merino polo baselayer, in the lush green Surrey hills on a baking summer’s day.
So, we headed instead for the Col de la Bonette, the highest road in the French Alps. A 26km or so road, winding its way to the lofty height of 2802m. At these heights, even in August, the weather is changeable, with the summit often totally different to the base. We figured this would be a perfect location to display our modular AW16 HOY Vulpine range: with each garment in the collection designed for a different temperature and weather, we could shoot the warmer weather bits lower down, and as we climbed, and – hopefully – the weather changed and grew cooler, change our outfit accordingly.
A lesson in how to enter another country without your passport.
The team – photographer Alexander Rhind, his assistant Harriet, plus myself, Eloise (Vulpine’s graphic designer) – & Rich – who would be modelling the range – flew to Nice for the 3 day shoot. Everyone arrived at Gatwick on time, we dropped off our luggage and made our way through security & onto the plane. It was here, while sitting on the runway, about to depart for Nice, that Rich realised that he was in possession of his wife’s passport, rather than his own…
The next 2 hours in the air were spent running through the possible scenarios of what might happen upon landing at Nice, and secretly hoping that this was some kind of joke that Rich thought would be hilarious! We finally landed in the airport, where Rich explained the situation at passport control and was swiftly whisked away. We waited tensely, wondering if he was being deported/thrown in jail and if we were going to ever see him again. After what seemed like an age, he finally reappeared!! Miraculously, the French Authorities had decided he didn’t have to turn straight back around and go home, and was allowed to stay. Woohoo! Shoot back on, we went through the inevitable excruciating car hire process, trying to work out the jigsaw puzzle of fitting in 2 bike boxes, 4 bags & suitcases, a couple of cases of photography kit and 4 people, and finally got on the road to Alps.
We met our airbnb host in Saint-Etienne de Tinee, and followed her back up the road to Auron, then onto a gravelled dirt track up the steep mountain side to their chalet. A storm was forecast for the evening, so we hurried to set up the bikes, sort out the kit, and headed straight up to the top of the Bonnette. Though the storm didn’t materialise, at the summit of the climb the weather was bleak. Low cloud had rolled in and was sitting in the valley, down the alarmingly steep drop from the road. This was the drama that we had come for. Beacon Jackets on, we shot until darkness, riding around the incredible bleak, moon-like landscape. Not a single sound to cut through the silence – any sounds of the valley were muffled by the clouds, and we didn’t see a single other person or car while we were up there. When the light dropped off to much to continue shooting, Rich & I descended back down the mountain, the headlights of the car lighting the way. I was really glad for all the kit we had on then; with the sun, the temperature had also dropped.
The following morning, we headed out early: it was a stunningly sunny day, and we started off low down in our Senko jerseys & thermal bib shorts. Alex shot us climbing & descending, shooting out of the boot of the car. As we climbed up the road, we swapped our kit; layering on gilets, taking on & off arm warmers with the Fortress Jersey, swapping to bib tights as we went higher and the sun began to lower in the sky. It was a beautiful day – not quite the bad weather that we were hoping for, but as we went up, the clouds did indeed roll in, and we chased them along the road. Every now and then I had to just stop and take in the impossibly beautiful landscape before me. Not a bad day at the office eh?
As the sun was setting, we were wrapping up the final outfit, riding up right to the peak of the Bonette. With the sun silhouetted behind the peak, a bank of cloud rolled in from the valley, shrouding the entire road. Rich & I frantically road up and down with Alex shooting and calling direction from higher up. The moment lasted only a few minutes before the clouds dispersed, but it has to be one of the most stunning sights I’ve ever witnessed. Simply beautiful.
We rolled back down for dinner, everyone feeling pretty chuffed with what we had got – kudos for Alex for capturing everything so wonderfully. Check out the lookbook of his images here.
I’m pleased also to say that Rich did manage to return to the UK, thanks to his wife couriering his passport out to him, which we picked up at the DHL depot at Nice Airport. All in all, turning up with the wrong passport did not turn out to be too much of a problem, though we would not advise readers to try this themselves…